The hiring of Mark Kennedy as CU’s new president unleashed a flood of questions. Strangely, one unique feature of this university never received a moment’s attention: Did the “official university fool” play a role in designing and implementing the recruiting, appraising, vetting, and appointing of the new leader?

Any explanation of the fool’s presence or absence in the presidential search must begin with a forthright admission of my troubles in setting priorities. I cannot fudge the fact that my work as faculty director of the Center of the American West has so monopolized my time that only a tiny sector of humanity remembers that I hold a second job as university fool.

Despite any lapses in my visibility, my standing as the nation’s preeminent performer in this profession is beyond question, perhaps because I have no rivals or competitors. Moreover, in duration and durability, my record is breathtaking: I began, forty years ago, as Yale’s fool, did a brief tour of duty as Harvard’s fool, and then became the University of Colorado’s fool.

On April 1, 2015, responding expeditiously to a pending institutional crisis triggered by the expiration of my first term, President Bruce Benson reappointed me as fool. Setting no term limit, his 2015 proclamation offered a stirring summation of my powers: “Therefore be it resolved that Professor Patty Limerick is hereby named Official Fool of the University of Colorado, with all the rights, responsibilities, reservations, roasting, raucousness, riposte, and revelry the designation entails.”

In medieval tradition and in Shakespeare’s plays, it is important to remember, fools never appointed kings. While others toiled in the labyrinths of regal succession, fools held a far greater power: the license to speak to the kings without the slightest fear of retaliation.

And so, President Mark Kennedy, here stands your fool, reporting for duty.

In a situation he shares with many of the kings and queens in medieval Europe and in Shakespeare’s plays, President Kennedy takes office in an atmosphere clouded with distrust and disorder.

Does he have before him any imaginable route to a reboot or reset?

Maybe.

Mark Kennedy is president of the only university in the nation with an official fool. Will he see this as a providential opportunity, or as a vexing burden to shed?

At this point, I invite everyone to join me in contemplating a much under-recognized law of human nature.

When a high-ranking official encounters a fool, the equivalent of an x-ray machine kicks into gear. Within seconds, the fool receives the privileged opportunity to detect an exaggerated sense of self-importance, to observe a sense of humor in its waning stages on life support, or to glimpse an abundance of insecurity only partially concealed by a pretense of confidence.

First, I am happy to report that a number of university presidents have emerged from this x-ray machine with heartening results, and Bruce Benson leads that pack.

Second, I am sad to report that this test has sometimes revealed other presidents as captains sailing their extremely complex ships into rough seas without much in the way of navigational equipment.

However he fares in this test, Mark Kennedy, along with a number of other prominent figures who govern CU, might well benefit from the fool’s refreshing views on partisanship.

To the fool, choosing a strong identification and affiliation with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party would make as much sense as choosing a strong identification and affiliation with a dust storm or a sandstorm. In the same way, taking an unyielding position on one side or the other of today’s partisan divide would be as doubtful a demonstration of wisdom as taking an unyielding position on one side or the other of the San Andreas Fault.

Back to that opening question.

No, I did not play any role in the hiring of a new president. But surely the time has come to send in the fool.

Patty Limerick is Colorado’s state historian and faculty director and chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado.