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Eric Barron Reported As Former Finalist For University Of Colorado President In 2019 Search

Penn State president Eric Barron was one of 30 candidates being considered for the same position at the University of Colorado last year, according to reports from The Colorado Independent.

Also included on the list were several local business leaders and politicians as well as Texas A&M president Michael Young, former Rutgers chancellor Deba Dutta, and Association of American Medical Colleges CEO Darrell Kirch, who was previously dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine.

Although he was reported as one of 30 finalists from an applicant pool of 160, Barron was not one of the 11 to receive an interview, according to the Independent.

The university’s board of regents ended up selecting University of North Dakota president and former Congressman Mark Kennedy, who began his term in July.

Both the university and President Barron declined to comment on whether he applied for the position. Under his current contract, he’d need to resign with at least six month’s notice in order to enter into a one-year consultancy period after the end of his presidency where his salary for that year would be equal to his salary as president in his final year. 

“My contract was extended by the Board of Trustees last May through June 2022, and I am fully committed to Penn State,” Barron said in a statement. “I and the Board, and the entire Penn State family have much to accomplish together.”  

“President Barron has made clear he is fully committed to his extended tenure with Penn State,” Board of Trustees chair Mark Dambly said in a statement. “The Board and President Barron have made great progress promoting affordability and investing in innovation and economic development, which are key priorities for the Board, and we recently extended a successful campaign — A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence — launched under President Barron’s leadership.  Commonwealth families are benefitting.  We are excited about continuing our partnership with President Barron through the completion of his tenure.”

Kennedy’s selection last year drew plenty of criticism from the online, statewide new outlet, which said the board “passed over applicants with more experience running universities and more distinguished careers” in favor of Kennedy. In recent months, The Independent and students have also taken issue with his “unremarkable performance at UND” and far-right voting record in Congress.

The Independent received a list of the 30 candidates via mail with a note reading, “I trust you will handle this information ethically.” When the paper approached the board of regents, it agreed to authenticate the list in exchange for The Independent’s agreement to conceal three of the applicants’ identities. 

The full chain of events that led to the publication of the list can be found below:

On regents’ behalf, O’Rourke asked The Independent to help regents honor a pledge they made to applicants that their identities would remain confidential. That pledge, regents said, ensured the highest qualified pool. 

The Independent refused, citing Colorado’s open records law and a suit The Boulder Daily Camera filed against regents weeks earlier. The suit asserts the list of applicants and materials about them should be open to public scrutiny as a way for Coloradans to assess how the elected regents are doing their jobs.

Regents, concerned about lawsuits for breaching confidentiality, agreed through O’Rourke to authenticate the list in exchange for The Independent’s agreement to conceal the names of three of the applicants. They are the presidents of a large southern university and a mid-size West Coast university and the CEO of a health care corporation, each of whom informed the board that being outed for having sought the job could jeopardize their current positions. The Independent agreed to conceal their identities based on a standard in journalistic ethics to minimize harm.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post attributed Mark Dambly’s quote to university spokeswoman Lisa Powers. This has since been corrected, and we apologize for the error.

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About the Author

Anthony Colucci

Anthony Colucci is Onward State’s managing editor, a preferred walk-on honors student, and a senior majoring in psychology and public relations. Despite being from the make-believe land of Central Jersey, he was never a Rutgers fan. If you ever want to know how good Saquon Barkley's ball security is, ask Anthony what happened when he tried to force a fumble at the Mifflin Streak. If you want to hear the story or are bored and want to share prequel memes, follow @_anthonycolucci on Twitter or email him at [email protected] All other requests and complaints should be directed to Onward State media contact emeritus Steve Connelly.

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