Monday, July 1, marked the beginning of Mark Kennedy’s tenure at the University of Colorado System.
The former University of North Dakota president spent the day touring each of the four system campuses in Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver.
“CU is one of the world’s great universities, built on a solid foundation, and it is poised to reach even greater heights. I am truly excited about the opportunity ahead,” Kennedy said in a statement after he was appointed to the president’s role.
CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue said Kennedy had an opportunity to meet with students and faculty and learn about everything from space exploration to the arts and cybersecurity.
“(Kennedy) had a full day of getting a small slice of what happens at the University of Colorado,” he said, noting the stops went well.
Kennedy was the lone finalist for the position, which drew criticism from faculty, staff and students throughout the CU system. In April, before being appointed to the role, he spent time at each campus answering questions about his voting record in Congress, as well as questions about his relationship with donors at the UND campus, among many other topics.
The open forums were filled with emotion, particularly around the topic of LGBTQ+ rights and Kennedy’s vote against same sex marriage in the early 2000s; some of the forums even included shouting and booing.
Crowds at the Boulder campus chanted: “Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Kennedy must go away,” as Kennedy left the stage.
The CU Board of Regents, which is an elected board, voted on party lines, 5-4, to appoint Kennedy to the president’s job on May 2.
Since then, Democratic regents and other campus community members have said the system needs to move forward and find a way to work with Kennedy into the future, the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
Kennedy will receive a significant pay bump with the new job. He made $365,000 a year during his nearly three-year stint at UND. In his first year in Colorado, Kennedy is set to make $650,000; that number goes up in the final two years of the contract to $850,000.
Kennedy’s contract also details pay incentives of up to $200,000 in his first year if he initiates a strategic planning process across the system, engages in outreach on behalf of rural communities in the state, reaches out to government leaders, donors and CU alumni, and if he forms shared governance organizations that support diversity and inclusion within the system.
The contract also includes $80,000 in moving expenses and other perks, such as a suite at Folsom Field for football games.
McConnellogue said the system typically does not have an inauguration ceremony for system presidents, but said the system staff is working on ways to ensure Kennedy gets a proper introduction to the Colorado system.