Wrangling on regents selection

The Minnesota Legislature appointed nine regents to the University’s 12-member Board of Regents on Monday. While the approval process was relatively free of fireworks – six of the nine nominees were reappointments and only one current regent who sought another appointment was denied a new term – the political wrangling by the joint Minnesota House-Senate nomination panel over nominees portends a rough future for the University and the plans of University President Robert Bruininks.

In an interview published in Sunday’s Star Tribune, Bruininks, when questioned about Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposal to cut the University’s budget by 15 percent, said he will present the regents with a plan that “both (balances) the budget and (invests) in the future.” Bruininks added, “Getting through this time cannot be just about cutting. It also has to be about growing.” Unfortunately, it appears the nomination panel was primarily interested in nominating candidates who are not interested in seeing the University’s mission and capabilities grow.

Roger Moe, the erstwhile Minnesota Senate majority leader and 2002 DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate, was a board nominee considered by the nominee panel. On a tense party-line vote, his nomination was rejected. According to House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, many Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature “felt Moe would not be interested in scaling back the University’s mission, something many (Republican legislators) support.”

The Moe nomination struggle underscores the apparent desire of the majority of the nominee committee panelists to see a smaller University mission and scope. However, given the University’s unique position in Minnesota’s and the nation’s educational system – a relatively cheap and accessible liberal arts institution that also excels at cutting-edge science and technology research – a command to shrink the University is misguided and lacks foresight. Hopefully, the new regents will realize their duty to help the University grow and prosper and not to pledge their allegiance to the legislators who championed their appointments.