Mark Kennedy

University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy testifies in front of the House Appropriations Committee in March. 

Mark Kennedy may have seemed like a good fit for the University of North Dakota, but his presidency will likely last less than three years. He started on July 1, 2016, and appears to have ended his tenure last week.

There has been grumbling about Kennedy for some time. He flirted with the University of Central Florida presidency in 2018 before the job went to someone else. He oversaw massive cuts at UND that disappointed many at the university. He feuded with major donors to the university which prompted the Engelstad family whose foundation supports the Ralph Engelstad Arena, to vow not to give direct funds to the university until Kennedy’s gone.

There also was controversy when the university announced plans to retain his chief of staff, Angelique Foster, and allow her to work remotely. She was to receive a $114,000 salary and have up to $25,000 in travel expenses each year. The plan was later dropped.

Kennedy didn’t have a choice about the budget cuts, but the other issues are on him.

The Tribune Editorial Board expects someone accepting the presidency of a university to last longer than three years. He said he didn’t seek the other jobs, but that doesn’t ring true to the Tribune. While handling his UND duties he appears to have been looking for a better job.

He’s muddled his efforts to find a different job and worn out his welcome in North Dakota. When word leaked last week that he was the sole finalist for the presidency of the University of Colorado he acted as if it was a done deal. Chancellor Mark Hagerott publicly stated that Kennedy’s comments were taken as a resignation.

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Over the weekend, Kennedy sent a letter to Hagerott saying he hasn’t resigned. "If I were to resign at some point in the future, I will provide you with written notice of my resignation," he wrote.

The Tribune Editorial Board believes a letter of resignation is just a formality. Kennedy can no longer be taken seriously as president of UND. It’s obvious he wants out and if the Colorado job falls through he’ll just keep looking. We don’t feel he should be paid as president of UND to look for a new job.

Even if Colorado doesn’t give Kennedy the job he should resign his UND position. If he doesn’t quit, the state Board of Higher Education should try to find a way to let him go without a buyout. It doesn’t help that the board extended his contract until June 2020 last summer. However, Kennedy’s actions should give the board sufficient reason to let him go.

Kennedy came to UND with an impressive resume. He even served in the U.S. House from 2001 to 2007. Some of his House votes have given pause to some in Colorado. Kennedy played a role in creating the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems at UND.

When Kennedy goes the state will need to find a new UND president. Usually the Board of Higher Education hires a company to conduct a nationwide search. Before doing this, the Tribune believes the board should conduct a search in North Dakota. We don’t expect to find another Tom Clifford, a North Dakota native who served as UND president for more than 20 years, but there should be a qualified candidate good for five years or so.

Former Gov. Ed Schafer got good reviews when he served as the interim UND president. It’s time to move on and to find another Schafer.

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