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Students rally against sole finalist for CU system president

Within hours of learning the Board of Regents was moving forward with Mark Kennedy as the sole finalist as CU President, a coalition of students was formed.

BOULDER, Colorado — Five hours is all it took for a group of University of Colorado Boulder students to form a coalition against Mark Kennedy.

On Wednesday, the Board of Regents announced Kennedy as the sole finalist for CU President.

"The board of regents believed he’s someone who had a unique set of skills and experience that make him the right person for this job," said Ken McConnellogue, vice president of communications for the University of Colorado.

RELATED: CU students to host rally Monday to protest university president finalist

Kennedy currently serves as president of the University of North Dakota.

Before venturing into higher education, Kennedy worked as a business executive and Congressman representing the people of Minnesota from 2001 to 2007.

The organizers of Monday's rally on the CU Boulder campus said Kennedy's past has them concerned.

"We just feel he is ultimately not the right fit for CU based on his business record, based on his record at the University of North Dakota as their president, and his Congressional voting record," CU Student Rachel Ward told 9NEWS.

Ward has taken on the role of organizer and "vessel" for what she called "marginalized communities" on campus.

"CU touts itself to be a liberal school," Ward said. "It touts itself to be inclusive but ultimately, there are a lot of my friends and community members who don’t feel safe being their full selves. They don’t feel safe being able to speak at our rally. So, if Kennedy becomes president, that might continue. I think that’s really horrible."

Ward told 9NEWS that fear stems from Kennedy's congressional record.

"He cosponsored a bill against same sex marriages and voted on a lot of things that were anti-women’s choice, anti-reproductive, anti-queer people," she said.

Ken McConnellogue told 9NEWS the Board of Regents "knew about several of the issues related to his voting record" but were satisfied with his responses when questioned.

"That was more than a dozen years ago," McConnellogue said. "That doesn’t mean it doesn’t give some insight into who he is but I think it’s also important to remember the job that he’s looking to do now. That is university president."

Ward and other students at Monday's rally said they fear Kennedy's past will negatively impact their education.

"I think the big concern is the de-funding, specifically, of student organizations or programs for underprivileged minorities at our school or other schools," Ward said.

In an open letter to students, Kennedy tried to quell those concerns writing in part: "I am passionate about advancing diversity and inclusion in higher education. Inclusion is one of UND’s key goals, and I pledge to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive environment at CU and to keep CU a forum for the free exchange of ideas."

The university is asking students to have an open mind as Kennedy visits the different campuses in the CU system.

"Separating someone’s personal beliefs from their professional obligations is an important distinction," McConnellogue said.

Kennedy is hosting an open forum for students and community members to attend at the University of Colorado Boulder on April 26 starting at 10:15 a.m. in Macky Auditorium.

"We’re listening to the university community and this is an important part of the process," McConnellogue said.

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