Letter to the editor: editorial mischaracterized UMN presidential search

David McMillan, chairman of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents, responds to last week’s editorial.

Letter to the Editor

“Board of Regents decision to select one Presidential finalist is a mistake” editorial mischaracterized certain facts and missed the mark.

Despite the piece offering commendation to the Board “for selecting the first female president in the University’s history” and implying the search is now complete, Provost Joan Gabel has not been selected as the University’s next president. She is currently the finalist, but the search and interviewing process will continue next week, with opportunities for students, faculty and staff on every University of Minnesota campus to meet her and provide input.

Contrary to the editorial’s claim, student and other voices have been integral to this process and the consideration of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. The presidential search began with broad engagement across our five campuses — opportunities that were open to students. In addition, the chair of the search committee, Regent Omari, held multiple conversations with students throughout the process. The Board will offer additional opportunities next week when Provost Gabel visits each campus for public forums. I hope all University students will attend and bring their questions and concerns. 

Student opportunities to provide feedback don’t end there. Submit your feedback online at president-search.umn.edu. This feedback has and will continue to inform the full Board of Regents when it gathers for its regularly scheduled Dec. 14 meeting to publicly interview Provost Gabel. As of writing this, more than 600 comments have been submitted to, and also carefully reviewed by, the 23 members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, a group that included student representation. 

Our University is not “bowing to the wishes of the candidates” when it protects the privacy of candidates. To the extent the law allows, the Board has shared information about the process and the candidates involved. It is the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, not the Board, that dictates what information is private, including the names of candidates not selected by the Board as finalists.

Thursday’s editorial demonstrates a clear misunderstanding of the presidential search process, the channels available for students to engage, and the laws by which the search is governed. I hope students take their role in this search as seriously as we take their input. Your voice is important and will be heard, but that’s impossible if you don’t engage in the process.

This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style. 

 David McMillan is the chairman of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.