Student government leaders clash over Regents representative process

COGS selected a Representative to the Regents Monday night at their last general assembly meeting of the year.

Members of COGS vote for the new leadership positions within the group in Tate Hall on Monday, April 30.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Members of COGS vote for the new leadership positions within the group in Tate Hall on Monday, April 30.

by Amie Stager

The Council of Graduate Students held its last general assembly meeting of the semester Monday night, electing a representative to the Board of Regents and deviating from the traditional joint selection committee, expressing disapproval of that process.

Though COGS elected Erin Gilbert, a graduate student in the department of plant pathology, as the representative, a joint committee of other student government leaders also selected four representatives to the Regents.

Since 2015, the four representatives have been chosen by a committee comprising the outgoing and incoming executive leaders from COGS, the Professional Student Government and the Minnesota Student Association.

According to Regents policy, a minimum of two students must be chosen from MSA and a minimum of one student must be chosen from PSG or COGS.

According to Zach Sheffler, current speaker of the COGS general assembly, three undergraduates and a member of PSG were chosen as representatives by the joint committee — but Sheffler said he did not approve of the process and wasn’t consulted. 

On the other hand, MSA president Trish Palermo said Sheffler was consulted on the process. COGS passed a resolution Monday disapproving the process.

“PSG, COGS and MSA are working with OSA/Regents office to select next years’ reps,” Palermo said regarding the process in a text to the Minnesota Daily.

Last year, COGS pushed to elect the representative by voting within their own membership, but the student chosen was the same as the student chosen by the selection committee and didn’t cause any problems, according to past Minnesota Daily coverage.

“The normal process that’s been going on has been kind of informal,” said Sheffler about the joint selection committee process. 

After Sheffler was elected speaker in 2017, he noticed the process was unacceptable under the structure of COGS. 

“The Representative to Regents is a government function,” Sheffler said. “And therefore should be elected by the [general assembly].”

According to Nick Ames, COGS Representative to the Student Senate Consultative Committee, COGS is still pursuing an election process that consults their members. 

“We’re asking to democratically elect our own representative,” Ames said. 

Sean Chen, the current Representative to Regents and president elect of COGS, said the Board of Regents officer and the Office for Student Affairs have tried to help mitigate the issue, but COGS has still not been fully consulted in the process. 

According to Chen, the Board wants agreement between the three governments, but there can be no agreement if COGS does not have a Regent representative. 

“I don’t think it’s true representation if there’s no graduate student on the board,” Chen said. 

Chen said that hopefully, in the future, there will be clear language and policy regarding the selection process. 

“We hope that we can make the decision through democratic election within each government,” he said.

Sheffler said the resolution adopted Monday asks the Regents to allow COGS to democratically elect their own representative.