William Brotherton: The University of North Dakota Deserves Better Than Mark Kennedy

UND President Mark Kennedy. Grand Forks Herald file photo.

This guest post was submitted by UND alumnus William Brotherton

As a still proud graduate of the University of North Dakota, and the owner of 3 businesses, I’d like to have my say in whether Mark Kennedy continues as the lame-duck president of UND. Quite frankly, it’s time for him to leave.

Most business owners worth their salt would not sit back and watch complacently while a key manager goes out to hustle up another job. Mr. Kennedy is clearly in a vital position at a critical time for the University. We’ve heard continuing doom and gloom about the state of the University as it prepares to knock down a number of buildings on campus, has dropped sports programs, closed the golf course, yet somehow has the money to build foot baths courtesy of the Alumni Association.

Let’s face it. Mark Kennedy is already gone. He’s just going through the paces while he looks for the next big opportunity on which to focus his greatness.

Mr. Kennedy came in with razzle-dazzle and claimed he was here to stay, “North Dakota’s our new home for a long time” and all that. Gee, then he applies for a job at the University of Central Florida? If you really like where you’re at, you don’t go looking for another job, do you?

There is also talk about how we should all be flattered about Mr. Kennedy being even considered for the president’s job at the University of Central Florida. Really?

I mean, couldn’t he have interviewed at Notre Dame or the University of Texas or some other top-tier University and make us proud? Instead, he applies to a school that is ranked number 171 in the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings (UND is tied at 192). That kind of gives a sense of how desperate he is to leave North Dakota.

If he had actually gotten the job in Florida, and we were to project out his career path based on his track record, after 2 years at the University of Central Florida, he would be ready to move on to another school on his steppingstone path to Harvard. Maybe he would go to somewhere like Illinois State University, which is ranked at number 159. Unless he’s decided that he can tolerate no more cold weather and, in that case, he could select the University of Alabama at Birmingham, not quite as warm as Florida, but Alabama doesn’t have too many snowplows. And Alabama Birmingham is also at number 159, tied with Illinois State.

UND spent $140,000 to “find” Mark Kennedy. That was money that UND didn’t have to waste. Now it’s looking like UND will have to spend even more money to find another “new” president. The next president will be faced with the daunting challenge of trying to build up the morale at UND and stop the slide to mediocrity, best symbolized by the post office like symbol used for our shrinking sports teams.

Let’s face it. Mark Kennedy is already gone. He’s just going through the paces while he looks for the next big opportunity on which to focus his greatness. Then we will go through another one of his interviews and perhaps he’ll snag that job so that we can hopefully move on to someone with a little higher stature and loyalty than Kennedy or his predecessor, Bob Kelley.

As I said earlier, no self-respecting business would continue to employ a top manager who has made the decision to leave. No one is that good. But maybe I don’t understand academic contracts. Perhaps it’s okay to go out and interview for the next position while you’re still gainfully employed and exhorting graduates to go out and shake up the world. Maybe that’s the difference between academia and the business world.

All I know is that my alma mater deserves better.

William J. Brotherton is a UND graduate and the principal of the Brotherton Law Firm. He is licensed as an attorney in both North Dakota and Texas. A former North Dakota railroader, he is the author of Burlington Northern Adventures: Railroading in the Days of the Caboose (www.BNrailstories.com). An adopted member of the Spirit Lake Sioux, his Sioux name is Tasunka Masa (Iron Horse).

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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