February 18, 2020
Colorado University (CU) school System President Mark Kennedy and Colorado State University (CSU) Chancellor Tony Frank co-wrote a piece in favor of Proposition CC that was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Durango Herald in October. Kennedy was writing as a private citizen because of disagreements with the CU Board of Regents over whether Proposition CC would benefit higher education in the state.
On Jan. 23, Mark Kennedy had published an opinion piece in the Denver Post about how underfunding the CU system hurts our state’s future.
The contents of his arguments in favor of increasing funding to the CU system are not the problem because his job is to raise money for the system. According to Kennedy, it is his primary responsibility. The problem is that it is unethical for a public figure such as himself to campaign for the CU system as a private citizen because he is no longer a private citizen and pretending to be one violates our trust of him in the position.
Whether or not he is holding a sign that says “I do not represent CU” while talking, he is still representing CU because he is the face of a public university that is overseen by politicians who decide how campuses in the system can spend their money.
Knowing how much money Kennedy oversees can give him social capital; people will react differently to him if they know that the professional power he has can benefit them. So even when not at work, the relationships he builds can positively or negatively affect the CU system.
When the public understands that the Kennedy who is arguing for more tax dollars is also the same person who receives more than $1 million a year in salary and bonuses from the same tax dollars, it easy to assume that he is arguing for money that will financially benefit him.
He is supposed to understand all of this. He served in congress as a public figure, and that should have taught him that being a public figure means you can no longer present a private opinion because of the way that it can affect the people you are professionally responsible for protecting.
Holding that position gives him power, and when he uses his name to gain a platform, he is using the power of his position for personal gain because his private life now only exists in private places.
If how little state funding the CU system receives was really an issue to Kennedy, his salary would be more in line with the salary that previous CU System President Bruce Benson received.
The issue is not that the CU system needs more money from the state: the issue is that Kennedy wants the CU system to have more money because it has lost money by hiring him. It is unethical for him to argue in favor of that as a private citizen because he is not one anymore.
His unethical behavior in campaigning makes it hard to believe he has the CU system’s best interests at heart.