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DENVER — At his first public forum, University of Colorado presidential finalist Mark Kennedy wasted no time bringing up his political past.

The controversial pick to be CU’s next president has been criticized for his conservative voting record, and history of jumping from job-to-job.

In 2006, while serving as a U.S. Congressman, Kennedy voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would have banned gay marriage at the federal level.

“No matter who you love, or how you identify, you will have my full respect for your dignity, and my full support, whether you’re staff, faculty, or student,” he told the crowd in his opening remarks.

Kennedy spoke at a Denver hotel ballroom, beginning a state-wide tour of CU’s campuses.

Photo: KDVR

In recent weeks, thousands of CU students, faculty, and alumni have expressed concerns over the Board of Regents choice.

“Mark Kennedy as a leader is problematic, and he’s unqualified,” said CU Law Student Perdeep Singh-Badhesha. “I think this is going to be the easiest of all the forums he goes to. These were softball questions, and I think he still did a very poor job.”

Singh-Badhesha says he’s concerned with Kennedy’s political views, at a school system known for welcoming and promoting LGBTQ rights.

“If you’re at the medical school, you’re really scared about his research spending. If you’re an alumni and a donor, you’re scared that he’s bad at fundraising. If you’re LGBTQ, obviously you’re afraid, and if you’re a woman on campus, obviously you’re afraid of this president,” he says. “I will not donate to CU if this man becomes president.”

Kennedy fielded numerous questions from the crowd, saying his political past won’t have an impact on how he handles businesses as president.

“None of those votes are going to come into play, they’re just not going to come into play. The real question is, how good are you at running a university? That’s the question we really ought to be focusing on.”

Kennedy will take questions at 4 more forums over the course of the week, as he visits all 4 CU campuses.

  • University of Colorado Colorado Springs: 1:30-2:30 p.m. April 23, University Center, Room 116, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs
  • University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus: 3:30-4:30 p.m. April 24, Education 2 North, Room 1102, 13120 E. 19th Ave., Aurora
  • University of Colorado Denver: 3:15-4:15 p.m. April 25, Student Commons, Room 2600, 1201 Larimer St., Denver
  • University of Colorado Boulder: 10:15-11:15 a.m. April 26, Macky Auditorium, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder

The Board of Regents is expected to vote on his nomination early next month.