DENVER — University of Colorado system president Mark Kennedy, a former Republican congressman who has been under fire from students, faculty and some members of the CU Board of Regents, will receive a $1.3 million settlement payment and step down a year before his contract was set to expire.
The regents approved the buyout on a 8-1 vote Wednesday, with Regent Heidi Ganahl casting the only dissenting vote. His contract will end July 1.
The decision came less than a month after the faculty assembly at the University of Colorado voted to censure Kennedy for failures related to equity, inclusion and diversity
Kennedy’s appointment two years ago was a party-line decision made by a board that, at the time, was the only state body led by a Republican majority.
Concerns arose immediately among some in the CU community about Kennedy’s stance on hot-button social issues during his time as a lawmaker.
The conflict came to a head when the board this year flipped to a Democratic majority.
Partisan tensions were on full display during Wednesday’s board meeting.
“Conservatives are not welcome at the University of Colorado,” said Regent Sue Sharkey, a Republican.
Other Republican members made similar comments, decrying what they consider to be a “liberal Democrat” attempt to cancel Kennedy.
CU Regent Glen Gallegos attempted to take the high road, ending the meeting with praise for the outgoing president’s handling of the partisan flare-up over his tenure.
“Mark, I’ve worked with you over the last couple of years and I know how hard you’ve worked,” he said. “I know some of the quality stuff you did and some of it will be lasting for many years to come.”
Kennedy was gracious in his parting statement, saying, “It’s been an honor to work with you and the many hardworking people who have advanced CU and made sure we’re delivering on our mission to discover, to teach and to serve. I think there are a lot of great things moving forward and we’re in a positive trajectory.”
The board plans to name an interim president in the coming weeks, then embark on another search for a permanent appointee.