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President of major college stepping down after informally referring to 'Trail of Tears' in front of faculty

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University of Colorado Mark Kennedy is stepping down after he informally referred to the "Trail of Tears" in front of faculty in late 2020, which led to his censure this year, the Hill reported.

What are the details?

Historically the "Trail of Tears" refers to the forced westward relocation of about 100,000 Native Americans in the 1830s, which resulted in more than 15,000 deaths. But Kennedy used the term to describe what would happen if the school failed in its online learning efforts.

"On-campus is declining and online is growing. If we don't get online right ... we have a trail of tears in front of us," Kennedy said during the late summer faculty meeting, according to the Denver Post.

The school's Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies soon after criticized Kennedy's words, the paper said.

Kennedy — a former Republican congressman — became CU's president in 2019, which ignited protests from students and faculty over his voting record against gay marriage and previous comments about diversity, the Hill said, citing a separate Post story.

Early this year, CU's board of regents censured Kennedy over his comments on diversity, the Hill said, adding that faculty followed suit in March with a censure vote over "his failure of leadership with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion." Students censured Kennedy for the same reasons in April, the Hill said.

Stepping down

The Hill said Kennedy penned a letter to the university community Monday regarding his resignation as president and pointed out recent changes to the school's board of regents and a new focus.

"The Board of Regents and I have entered into discussions about an orderly transition of the presidency of the University of Colorado in the near future," Kennedy said in his letter, according to the Hill. "The Board of Regents has a new makeup this year, which has led to changes in its focus and philosophy."

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