CU to pay Mark Kennedy $1.3 million in departure deal

University of Colorado President Mark Kennedy will receive a $1.3 million lump-sum payment when he departs his role as leader of the four-campus university system by July 1, according to an agreement approved by the CU Board of Regents on Wednesday.

The agreement outlining the details of Kennedy’s departure from the university presidency after two years on the job passed on an 8-1 vote, with Regent Heidi Ganahl, an at-large Republican, voting against the deal.

At the end of the virtual meeting, Kennedy wished the university system well and said he will continue to support CU.

“It was an honor to work with you and many hard-working people to advance CU,” Kennedy said. “I think there’s a lot of great things moving forward and a positive trajectory.”

Wednesday’s special board meeting began with an hour-long private executive session followed by a motion presented by Regent Chance Hill, R-Colorado Springs, which asked the board to vote to allow Kennedy to carry out his original employment contract, which, if not renewed, would have ended in the summer of 2022.

Hill’s motion failed on a 3-6 vote with Hill, Ganahl and Sue Sharkey, R-Castle Rock, voting in favor.

Discussion around Kennedy’s departure included Republican regents arguing that CU was hostile toward conservatives. Kennedy, a former GOP congressman, was hired in 2019 on a split, party-line vote by the board, which was controlled by Republicans at the time.

“Conservatives are not welcome at the University of Colorado,” Sharkey said. “I love the University of Colorado. However, sadly, conservatives are not welcome… I hope that CU becomes a welcoming place for all people, including conservatives”

Ganahl said: “I don’t think we should trouble ourselves with the illusion that Mark Kennedy’s firing was a great failing or fundamental error in leadership. Mark Kennedy is being fired for the high crime of not being a Democrat or left-wing academic to a new board majority who many days forget they serve the students of CU and not the (Democratic National Committee). In this case, their need to grind partisan axes will cost taxpayers and students millions of dollars.”

Kennedy’s announcement about stepping down cited the board’s “new makeup,” which he said led to “changes in its focus and philosophy.”

The departure decision came weeks after Kennedy was censured by Boulder faculty and students for his handling of diversity issues.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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