CU Forum

A Sure Thing -
Selecting a New President for CU

"But despite my receiving nasty, hateful emails from ill-informed liberals for the past two weeks, this is my pledge to you: I will not budge. Now more than ever, I continue to believe that Mark Kennedy will be a great CU President. He has my full support. In fact, this entire episode proves that we need more like him in higher education and highlights the realities I described throughout my campaign: Far Leftists are incredibly intolerant and hypocritical; they defame those who disagree with them; and they resort to intimidation against anyone who does not conform. And they will stop at nothing to destroy those who push back against extreme political correctness, which stifles free speech and diversity of thought on campus. (I'm referring to Far Leftists... not all Democrats.)"

-- CU Regent Chance Hill
April 29, 2019
Facebook Post: ENOUGH!

"Regarding the resistance to the regents' pick, Benson said if he had been running the town halls, he would have said, "Enough," to protesters. "I would have said, 'Shouldn't we be talking about how he's going to run a $4.5 billion enterprise with 34,000 employees and over 70,000 students?' Those are the questions people should have been asking."

-- CU President Bruce Benson
May 17, 2019
Retiring CU-system President Bruce Benson
talks about his successor, legacy
Following the announcement of the retirement of CU President Bruce Benson, the regents selected a new president in a two-part process.

The first part was a largely secret process of selecting search committee members and vetting possible candidates. Business and political interests played an important role in this part of the process. A single candidate, with significant business and political background but limited academic background, was brought forward for consideration as president.

A second, largely public, and much faster process (21 days from announcement of the finalist to his approval as president), revealed significant concerns across the university community regarding the process and the candidate selected in the secret first part of the process.

The concerns of the university community, however, were not effective either in causing the regents to extend or modify the search process in any way, or in preventing the regents from promptly approving the single candidate as president.

The appearance was that outside business and political interests had once again won out over the interests and concerns of the university community in the selection of the university president.

President Benson announces his retirement

On July 18, 2018, CU President Bruce Benson announced his retirement, effective July, 2019.

The announcement from the University listed the following as among Benson's major accomplishments as president:

- Internally generated financial aid increased from $88 million to $184 million;
- Research funding increased from $660 million to $1.03 billion;
- Fundraising increased from $135 million to more than $400 million;
- CU's endowment increased from $721 million to $1.3 billion;
- The overall budget increased from $2.2 billion to $4.5 billion;
- CU's economic impact increased from $5.3 billion in 2012 to $8.3 billion ($12.3 billion when affiliate hospitals are included).
- Some 135,000 students have earned degrees from CU's four campuses. Enrollment increased from 54,174 to 65,375 (with an additional 7,000 taking courses for credit);
CU President Bruce D. Benson announces retirement

No Evaluation of current University status or outgoing president's legacy

The primary responsibility of the Board of Regents is to select, and oversee the performance of, the President of the University.

Regent Policy 3.F.2(A) states

"The president . . . shall be subject to a comprehensive evaluation at least once every five years of service. However, at the discretion of the supervising or appointing authority [the president] may be evaluated comprehensively at any time."
Bruce Benson was appointed President of the University of Colorado in March, 2008.

The latest comprehensive 5-year evaluation of President Benson was completed in June, 2014, three months past the 6-year mark of his presidency. See the report here. The Regents only publicly released the report in a settlement of a lawsuit brought by a Forum reporter to obtain a copy of the report. For additional details see CU Forum: Regents not doing their job

This year, the Regents have declined to provide an evaluation of the president or the state of the University at the 11-year mark of Bruce Benson's term as President of the University.

The Regents have given no explanation for their failure to provide such a report to the community.

By failing to evaluate and report on the state of University:

- the regents have failed to act in accordance with their own policies;

- the regents have failed to document major changes to the University during Bruce Benson's term as president;

- the regents have failed in their responsibility to provide transparency and accountability to the university comunity.

University Guiding Principles

2. Maintain a commitment to excellence.

3. Promote and uphold the principles of ethics, integrity, transparency, and accountability.

4. Be conscientious stewards of the university's human, physical, financial, information, and natural resources.

5. Encourage, honor, and respect teaching, learning, and academic culture.

6. Promote faculty, student, and staff diversity to ensure the rich interchange of ideas in the pursuit of truth and learning, including diversity of political, geographic, cultural, intellectual, and philosophical perspectives.

University Guiding Principles

The failure to produce a report also illustrates an unfortunate gap between what senior CU leadership says, and what senior CU leadership does.

In addition to the Guiding Principles above, in a recent op-ed in the Denver Post, Sue Sharkey, chair of the CU Board of Regents, and CU President Bruce Benson together stated their view of basic CU principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression:

CU is "a place where ideas are debated and discussed in the hopes that the best rise to the top, as well as a place where faculty freely conduct research and teach truth within the standards of their disciplines. Freedom of expression and academic freedom are fundamental to the university."

It is critical to teach students how to think, not what to think
Sue Sharkey and Bruce Benson
Denver Post
Guest Commentary
October 5, 2018
However, without the information an 11-year report would provide to the community on the current status of the University, as well as the brevity and limited format of the public portion of the process (see below), the presidential selection process was not able to be a process "where ideas are debated and discussed in the hopes that the best rise to the top."

Such a report may have permitted significant policy questions to be directed to the presidential candidate regarding his views of current University strengths or weaknesses.

For example:

CU Boulder can no longer be considered a '4-year college.' What are your views on the very low 4-year graduation rate at Boulder and how would you address that problem?


What are your views on the de facto privatization of the University, as symbolized by the creation of an off-campus corporate headquarters for CU?

CU's off-campus corporate headquarters
at 1800 Grant St. in Denver


The is no substantial independent journalism for CU. This severely limits how "ideas are debated and discussed" at CU and directly contradicts the Guiding Principles and the statements of Chair Sharkey and President Benson in their Op-ed mentioned above. Bruce Benson eliminated the last substantially independent CU journalism endeavor - The Silver & Gold Record - in April, 2009, about 13 months into his term as CU president. Most CU communications are now handled through university public relations departments controlled by the President. What are your views on this?


The Center for Western Civilization Thought & Policy is the personal project of President Benson. He is the chief organizer, chief fund-raiser and chief administrator of the Center. President Benson also organized a partnership between the Center and The Steamboat Institute, a conservative politcal advocacy group. What are you views on an academic unit of a public university operating in partnership with a partisan politcal advocacy group?

Regent Town Halls

The regents held a series of unusual campus town halls early on in the search process. It is rare for any regents to meet with the campus community in such open and informal settings.

The town halls were chaired by the two co-chairs of the search committee Regent Heidi Ganahl and Regent Irene Griego.

The purpose of the town halls was to solicit views on the upcomming presidential search.

Colorado Springs
1-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018
University Center, Room 303

1-2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018
Old Main auditorium
CU regents host president town hall on Boulder campus

Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera                                   

A rare sight: CU regents (facing audience) in
open discussion on the Boulder campus

Anschutz Medical Campus
10:30 a.m.-noon Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018
Hensel-Phelps East Auditorium, Research 1 building, North

3:30-5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018
Terrace Room, second floor, 1380 Lawrence St.

Regents hire executive search firm to aid in search process

The regents hired an executive search firm to consult and assist with the search process, thus firmly embedding the search process in a strong business context.

"The University of Colorado Board of Regents has selected Wheless Partners Consulting and Executive Search - one of the nation's leading executive search consultant and human capital advisory firms - to assist in searching for CU's next president."

CU selects presidential search firm

"For more than 30 years, our executive and Board Search consultants and human capital advisors have been privileged to partner with global Fortune 500 companies, private equity firms, government organizations, public and private institutions and entrepreneurial startups to ensure they attract and hold the correct "top of the bell curve talent" to achieve their most critical goals."

Wheless Partners

Search Committee

In addition to hiring a professional search firm to assist with the search, the board also empanelled a search committee.

The membership of the presidential search committee is outlined in Regent Policy 3 (E):

"The composition of the presidential search committee shall be as follows:

Regents - The Board of Regents shall elect from among its members a chair, who shall conduct the meetings of the committee, and a vice chair, who shall assume the duties of the chair in the chair's absence. . . .

Dean of a school, college, or library - The board will request the chancellors and Council of Academic Deans to nominate one or more deans from each campus.

Faculty - The board will request that the faculty governance groups nominate more than two faculty members who are members of the Faculty Senate with distinguished records of achievement from each campus.

Student - The board will request that the student governance organizations nominate two or more students from the student governance organizations from each campus.

Staff - The board will request that the staff governance organizations nominate two or more staff from the staff governance organizations from system administration and each campus and that both classified and university staff be nominated.

Alumni/ae - The board will request that the alumni organizations nominate two or more alumni from the alumni organizations from each campus.

Community Members - The board will solicit nominations from the community."
The search committee members according to the regents' classification are listed here.

An alternate classification

The categories to which an individual might belong are not exclusive. There is overlap in the categories of classification and this provides some discretion as to which category someone is counted in. For example, a dean may also have a faculty appointment; several members of the committee are also CU alums.

The regents original classification of some members reflected some selective selection.

For example, the two individuals selected as representative of CU Alums were both businessmen who had run for public office as Republicans - not necessarily representative of CU alums in general.

The individual with the following qualifications was originally selected as the sole 'student' representative on the committee:

'Associate Director at the Center for Western Civilization, Thought & Policy at CU Boulder; graduated CU in 2009; MA in Political Science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; married, with two children; second-year MBA student.'

After protests by student groups, an undergraduate from UCCS was added to the committee.

An alternate classification of the individulas selected to be on the committee, based on a member's most significant recent activities, looks like this:

Regents 2

Faculty 3

Student 1

Staff & Admin 6

Business Community 5
The committee has most prominent representation from the business community and CU staff and administration.

The search committee members according to the alternate classification are:

Regent Co-chairs

Heidi Ganahl
Republican, Regent At Large

Irene Griego
Democrat, 7th Congressional District

Tom Cech (CU Boulder)
PhD, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Director of the BioFrontiers Institute at CU Boulder; elected to the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Medicine; awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989

Christopher Bell (CU Colorado Springs)
PhD, associate professor of media studies in the Department of Communication at CU Colorado Springs.

Joanne Addison (CU Denver)
PhD, is a professor of English at CU Denver

Sierra Brown,
a Colorado Springs undergrad and chair of the Intercampus Student Forum
Staff & Admin

Corey Edwards (CU Denver)
Director of Student Success for the Office of Digital Education at the University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus.

Alex Holmgren (CU Boulder)
Associate Director of the Center for Western Civilization, Thought & Policy at CU Boulder

Laura Borgelt (CU Anschutz Medical Campus)
PharmD, Associate dean for administration and operations at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and professor in the departments of Clinical Pharmacy and Family Medicine

Bobby Braun (CU Boulder)
PhD, Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Boulder and also serves as the Smead Chair of Space Technology

Pam Shockley-Zalabak, (CU Colorado Springs)
PhD, chancellor emerita of CU Colorado Springs

Margaret Bathgate (CU Foundation)
Former chair of the CU Foundation's board of directors and currently a member of the Foundation's board of trustees
Business Community

Brian Davidson
M.D., president of SCL Health St. Mary's Medical Center in Grand Junction and regional market executive for the Western Colorado/Eastern Utah region of SCL Health; ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for CU Regent

Frank McNulty
JD, Founder of Square State Strategy Group, a corporate and campaign services firm; former Republican Colorado sate lawmaker (2007 - 2015)

Cy Harvey
President and Chief Operating Officer of The Anschutz Corporation and the Anschutz Investment Company

Jake Zambrano
Senior project manager for EIS Solutions and Director of Legislative Services, Commom Sense Policy Roundtable (Regent Ganahl is also a board member of Common Sense)

Ben Ochoa
JD, partner with the law firm of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
What is noticeably missing from the committee makeup is significant representation as well from the traditional teaching and learning core of the University: the liberal arts.

Where is the historian of Renaissance art? Where is the scholar of Chinese language and culture? Where is the expert in Judeo-Christian ethics? Where is the researcher in African cultures? Where is the teacher of Greek and Roman literature? Where is the scholar of comparative European and Asian music? Where is the expert in the history of American higher education?

How many in the committee would speak for the traditional University perspective that says a public institution of higher education is first an institution for the development of students' minds and characters, rather than a training center for the workforce or an adjunct to corporate research departments?

How many would speak for independent, non-commercial academic inquiry and disinterested, basic research, rather than applied, corporate research?

Single Finalist - Third in a Row

The candidate selected by the regents, Mark Kennedy, will be the third CU President in a row (after Hank Brown and Bruce Benson) to broadly share the same characteristics:

- sole finalist of a secret search process

- business background

- conservative Republican politician

- limited academic experience - no PhD.
Four of the five regents to approve Mr. Kennedy as president are graduates of the Leadership Program of the Rockies, an indoctrination and training program for conservative political activists (Regents Sharkey, Ganahl, Carson and Hill). Regent Ganahl is now also a member of the Board of Directors of LPR.

Bruce Benson has also been very involved with LPR. In 2017 he accepted an award from LPR for "profound and long-term contributions" to LPR (see CU Forum: The Infrastructure of Political Polarization on Campus).

Mr. Kennedy's complete CV is here.

A summary of Mr. Kennedy's CV is below:


Master's in Business Administration (MBA) with distinction, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Ann Arbor, Michigan, - April, 1983
Bachelor of Science (BS), St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota – December, 1978


July 2016 - 2019 University of North Dakota, President *
January 2012 - June 2016 George Washington University, Graduate School of Political Management, Director and Professor

2012 Pawlenty for President, Campaign Treasurer (HuffPost)

2011-12 Johns Hopkins University's Carey Business School, Executive in Residence

2007-10 Accenture, Global Retail Business Development Lead

Government / Politics
2003-07 U.S. House of Representatives, Republican (MN-06)
2001-03 U.S. House of Representatives, Republican (MN-02)

1995-00 Department 56, Inc. (now Enesco), SVP and CFO
1992-95 ShopKo Stores, Inc. (was sub. of SUPERVALU), Senior EVP
1987-92 Federated Department Stores, Inc. (now Macy's), SVP and Treasurer
1983-87 The Pillsbury Company (now General Mills), Director of Finance

* Note:

- February 15, 2018 UND's Kennedy to interview for president job at Florida university
- March 9, 2018 Mark Kennedy not chosen as Central Florida president
- March 13, 2018 Kennedy: No plans to leave UND

University of North Dakota

Single 550-acre campus
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Enrollment 13,847
Founded 1883

University of North Dakota

Campus open forums

Following the secret part of the process and the announcement of the single finalist, five public forums were scheduled with the candidate (in addition to a number of private meetings on campuses).

The format of the public forums was that individuals generally got to ask one question of the candidate in a large public meeting. Each forum was scheduled to last one hour, with the candidate giving an 8 to 10 minute introductory talk.

Forums were scheduled in succession, one each day during the week of April 22, 2019 to April 26, 2019.

The compressed schedule of the one-off forums on each campus provided only limited and unequal opprtunities for campuses to interact with the candidate.

For example, the Boulder campus, with half the population of the University, got a single 1-hour public forum at Macky Auditorium, while the other half of the University population split 4 hours of forums in smaller venues.

CU video                                          

Hunter Allen / CU Independent                                          

Top: 1-hour forum at CU Colorado Springs;
Bottom: 1-hour forum at CU Boulder.

The format of the forums, and the lack of information provided on the current status of the University and President Benson's term in office, did not provide for opportunity:

- for community members to carry out an extended conversation or dialogue with the candidate;

- for reflection and later follow-up or clarifying questions or discussions;

- to dig deeper into policy issues important for CU.
The forums were scheduled as follows:

- CU system administration and CU Foundation: 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Monday, April 22, Capitol Ballroom, Warwick Hotel, Denver. Video

Denver Post: Mark Kennedy faces two starkly different welcomes to University of Colorado on first day of campus town halls

- University of Colorado Colorado Springs: 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, University Center, Room 116, Colorado Springs. Video

Colorado Springs Gazette: Sole finalist for CU system president stands his ground during tough questioning at UCCS forum

- University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus: 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, Education 2 North, Room 1102, Aurora. Video

Denver Post: Mark Kennedy meets CU’s medical community, and draws small protest, at Anschutz campus

- University of Colorado Denver: 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Thursday, April 25, Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, Denver. Video

Daily Camera: Mark Kennedy faces cold audience again at CU Denver

- University of Colorado Boulder: 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. Friday, April 26, Macky Auditorium, Boulder Video

CU Independent: Mark Kennedy receives unwelcoming crowd during final stop of CU tour

Reactions to the sole finalist

As the public portion of the process unfolded, groups and individuals voiced their reactions to both the search process and the single candidate.

Open Letter from CU Presidential Finalist Mark Kennedy
April 12, 2019
Kennedy Letter

Statement on Search Process from Regents Sharkey and Kroll
April 13, 2019
Regents Statement

Boulder Faculty, Student and Staff Governance Groups Pass Resolutions Regarding Mark Kennedy and Selection Process
April 19, 2019
Boulder Governance Groups Resolutions

Board of Regents Open Letter to CU Community Concerning Search Process
April 22, 2019
Open Letter

CU Against Kennedy

Faculty and Staff React to Mark Kennedy's Presidential Nomination
April 23, 2019
CU Independent: Faculty and Staff React

Faculty Council: Report on Mark Kennedy and Ethical Misconduct
April 28, 2019
Faculty Council Report on Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy Open Letter Addressing Faculty Council Report
April 29, 2019
Mark Kennedy Letter to Faculty Council

CU Boulder Groups Resolutions and Letters Concerning Mark Kennedy as Search Finalist
Resolutions and letters pertaining to nomination of Mark Kennedy

Summary of Comments Received by CU Concerning its Presidential Search
CU Presidential Search Feedback
April 12 - April 29, 2019

Decision Dissected: What regents say they knew - and didn't
Colorado Independent: Decision Dissected: What regents say they knew - and didn't - about CU presidential pick
April 30, 2019

Denver Post Editorial: Mark Kennedy is the wrong fit for the University of Colorado
May 1, 2019
Denver Post Editorial

CU Independent Presidential Search Page
May 2, 2019

Gazette Editorial: University of Colorado regents with backbones stand up to 'mob'
May 3, 2019
Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial

Daily Camera Editorial: Time to reform CU Board of Regents
May 4, 2019
Daily Camera Editorial

The Process Question

The key question in the process was one the regents did not explicitly address:

What is the appropriate reaction of the Board of Regents to substantial negative reaction by university governance groups and others to both the search process and to the single finalist selected in the secret portion of the process?

Boulder Faculty Senate Resolutions

CUSG & UGGS Statement

UGGS Resolution

CU Faculty Council LGBTQ Committee Statement

CU Boulder Staff Council Resolution

April 14 Letter to University of Colorado Regents re: Mark Kennedy
Following the open forums and the emergence of significant concerns to the candidacy of Mark Kennedy, the regents apparently had no explicit reaction. There were no announced extensions or modifications of the seach process; the regents held no open Q&As or public town halls to further discuss this matter; no additional open forums with the candidate were scheduled.

Six days after the last open forum concluded in Boulder, the regents, on schedule, approved Mark Kennedy as the next CU president.

Regents vote on the president

The regents approved Mark Kennedy as CU president by a 5 to 4 vote on May 2, 2019.

Regents' Kennedy vote meeting video
[content starts at ~ 4:45:00]
May 2, 2019

CU press release: CU Regents Name 23rd President
May 2, 2019

Video Statement from Incoming President Mark Kennedy
May 2, 2019
Bruce Benson will remain president until July 1, 2019, when Mark Kennedy will become president.

[Mr. Kennedy will leave Colorado and] "return on June 15 to soak up as much as he can before Benson leaves. "I'll be sharing everything I can share with him and introduce him to various people," Benson said. "We're here to help him transition successfully. He's going to have a learning curve." "

Retiring CU-system President Bruce Benson talks about his successor, legacy

Last Updated: June 16, 2019

CU Forum