Judge Mark Kennedy on His Competence as a Leader Not His Politics

UND president Mark Kennedy answers questions during a meeting with the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board Thursday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A decision by the University of Colorado to make current University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy their president has proved controversial.

But not because Kennedy has been a poor communicator, and a poor leader, here in North Dakota. Most of the rancor seems focused on Kennedy’s politics, per this report in the Denver Post.

Kennedy a former Republican member of Congress, and more than a decade ago he cast votes on social issues like gay marriage and gay rights which were typical for Republicans then. Understandably that has some gay rights advocates upset.

But should it cost Kennedy his job?

Would those in the University of Colorado community demur at the idea of Barack Obama being their new campus president because of his past position on gay marriage? Which is much more recent than Kennedy’s?

Kennedy says he doesn’t hold those positions today. “Like many friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, my position on marriage has evolved,” he wrote in an open letter to what would be his new campus. “Would I vote the same way today? No.”

Why should this matter? Kennedy’s wasn’t out of the mainstream at the time. He was in Congress from 2001 to 2007. During his 2008 campaign for the White House, former President Barack Obama said he believed marriage was strictly between a man and a woman. He didn’t publicly change his mind on this issue until 2012.

Would those in the University of Colorado community demur at the idea of Barack Obama being their new campus president because of his past position on gay marriage? Which is much more recent than Kennedy’s?

I suspect not.

I suspect the problem many of these critics have with Kennedy is that he was a Republican. And there isn’t much tolerance for Republicans on America’s college campuses.

I’m hardly one to defend Kennedy. I was the first to report the story about his special employment arrangement with his special assistant. I was also the first to report a similarly cushy arrangement UND gave to one of Kennedy’s friends. As I wrote yesterday, whatever Colorado decides, North Dakota needs to part ways with him.

But if Kennedy doesn’t get the job in Colorado, it should be because of his job performance. Not his politics.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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