Significant agenda awaits regents

Nina Petersen-Perlman

Although last month’s meeting was mostly talk and little action, this week the University’s Board of Regents has several items to vote on.

Along with the usual real estate transactions and policy changes, the board will decide whether to approve a request for $330 million over the next decade from the state Legislature to create the Minnesota Biomedical Sciences Research Facilities Authority, a state organization.

The money would be used to create five new research buildings and hire 500 researchers over the next 10 years.

The request comes at a time when Minnesota is struggling to maintain a leadership position in national biomedical research while several other states are gaining an edge.

University Regent John Frobenius said he had witnessed for himself the “enormous” amount of resources being pumped into biomedical facilities in Arizona.

“If we want to continue our strengths in these areas, we’re going to have to put dollars into those facilities,” Frobenius said.

University Regent Clyde Allen said the topic is a very important one for the state.

“We have to give that a lot of thought,” Allen said. “That is where the focus of much research is in the country, and indeed the world, these days.”

The request is not included in the $206 million bonding bill the University already has requested from the state.

Facilities

The board will vote Thursday on whether to purchase remaining land surrounding the proposed on-campus stadium site.

Some contention arose in last month’s facility committee meeting about the steep price of the relatively small parcels of land. The purchase of the city block on which the Daily’s office building sits, for example, will cost the University $4.1 million.

Frobenius said the University itself has driven up the cost in this area and now must pay the price.

“I think there’s concern about what the market is, but the reality is the University sits adjacent to land that is pricey,” Frobenius said.

Members of the committee also will decide whether to approve a 253-foot-long, $300,000 Wall of Discovery as an amendment to the Scholars Walk.

The project, which would be completely funded by the University Gateway Corporation and private donors, will line the north exterior wall of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building and will be finished in October.

It will feature a collection of handwritten scientific formulas, calculations, musical scores and other representations of creative thinking, which will look like chalk on a blackboard.

Other issues

> The regents will consider a resolution related to higher education needs in Rochester, and the Morris and Crookston campuses will present University realignment updates.

> The regents will discuss updated information about the proposed Central Corridor light rail route, which would connect downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis through the University area.

> The Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs committee will get a background on greek life on campus and discuss how closely the University should interact with the greek community and the challenges the community faces in developing housing.

Regent Dallas Bohnsack said he is an alumnus of the University’s greek system and is looking forward to discussing the University’s relationship with it.

“I’m very interested in seeing the greek community survive and be viable,” Bohnsack said. “I have seen good examples of how a greek community can enhance the University experience for a lot of people.”