Ventura draws fire for naming Keffeler to Board of Regents

Latasha Webb

Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Board of Regents choices have many questioning the fairness of the selection process. Complaints about Jean Keffeler’s appointment have the governor defending his choices.

Keffeler did not apply or go through the interview process with the other regent applicants, making her appointment a surprise to many.

“I think it’s rather strange for someone who hadn’t applied,” said Sen. Deanna Weiner, DFL-Edina. But Weiner said some of the blame belongs to legislators.

“I’m really concerned that we didn’t do our job. Do we want this to be a gubernatorial decision, or do we want the Legislature to have some input?” she asked.

Keffeler, a former regent chairwoman, resigned in 1996 after backing a controversial change in the University’s tenure code.

The University received national attention when faculty nearly unionized in response to Keffeler’s push to eliminate tenure.

Warren Larson, a regent from 1995 to 2001, said he was hoping to return to the board. He expressed surprise at the Keffeler selection.

Larson said that although Keffeler probably learned from her last experience as a regent, she will still be watched carefully by University faculty.

“I think the governor had a lot of great quality candidates to choose from,” Larson said. “I was always very impressed with (Keffeler’s) intellect, her knowledge of higher education.”

Of Keffeler’s past, he said, “Sometimes people get so caught up in their passions and their beliefs that they don’t hear others.”

Ventura defended his selection in a Tuesday press release stating he respects the Regent Candidate Advisory Council but thought Keffeler was deserving.

“Jean’s experience makes her uniquely qualified to serve on this board. She’s dedicated to building a great institution while also receptive to the challenge of redefining the school’s mission and accountability,” he said.

Regent and University professor Joseph Massey called Keffeler a University friend and an experienced board member.

“I think it’s a large mistake to prejudge what’s going to happen. It was a rocky road six years ago, but I believe we’re beyond that.” he said.

Keffeler was unavailable for comment.

The underrepresentation of rural Minnesota on the board also concerns some Minnesotans.

Larson said he’s heard rural residents say the University should be renamed the “University of Minneapolis.”

“I was concerned about the lack of geographic diversity,” Weiner said.

Robert Bergland, the regents’ vice chairman, is well informed on rural issues, Massey said. Bergland is a resident of Roswell, Minn., and former secretary of agriculture under then-President Jimmy Carter.

None of the recently appointed regents is based in rural Minnesota.

Ventura appointed Edina’s Frank Berman, an attorney; Richard “Pinky” Macnamara, owner of Activar, Inc.; Lakeesha Ransom, a University graduate student; and Keffeler, a Minneapolis management consultant. He reappointed Minneapolis’ Michael O’Keefe, commissioner of Ventura’s Department of Human Services.

 

Latasha Webb covers Legislature and
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