Whatever Colorado Decides, North Dakota Needs to Be Done With Mark Kennedy


Mark Kennedy addresses people after being selected as the next President of the University of North Dakota Tuesday at the Gorecki alumni center. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

Yesterday University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy sent the campus community what sure seemed like a resignation letter. “With mixed feelings, excited for this new opportunity, but sorry to leave UND, we look forward to keeping in close contact with our many friends in North Dakota and returning to witness UND’s continued progress,” he wrote.

Only, it turns out that while Kennedy was announced as the only finalist for a job at the University of Colorado, he doesn’t actually have the gig yet. And now some people involved in that decision are second-guessing Kennedy as their choice:

“I maybe should have put ‘we would be sorry to leave UND’,” Kennedy told the Grand Forks Herald of his letter to the campus.

According to Boulder’s Daily Camera newspaper, Kennedy’s voting record as a past Republican member of Congress is now inspiring push back on his job. If that’s the reason he’s not hired it would be a shame. Though I don’t agree with some of Kennedy’s past views on things like gay marriage, America’s universities need to be more tolerant of diverse political viewpoints. It would be pathetic if intolerance for Kennedy’s politics were the reason he didn’t get the job.

Especially when there are a lot of reasons having to do with Kennedy’s job performance – from ticking off major donors to special treatment for his special assistant – which make him a poor leader for any university.

Whatever the University of Colorado decides, it’s clear North Dakota needs to be done with Kennedy. This is the second time during his relatively short tenure in Grand Forks that he’s been in the mix for a job in another state (he was previously in the running for a job in Florida). If Colorado falls through, how in the world is he going to convince even his supporters that he’s committed to UND?

Plus Kennedy told the Daily Camera that controversy here in North Dakota over his special assistant getting a massive pay raise, and an allowance worth tens of thousands of dollars per year to commute to her job from Texas, was born of sexism and racism.

Kennedy is now backtracking on that accusation – “In a follow-up call, Kennedy said he didn’t want his comments on race to be overblown,” the Camera reports in a follow-up to their story – but the damage is done.

Through his own actions Kennedy has destroyed any possibility that he could be an effective campus leader in North Dakota going forward. I don’t know what Colorado is going to do, but I know what North Dakota should do.