Regents approve Bell Museum designs and affirmative consent

The board also discussed contract agreements with trade workers at its September meeting.

by Brian Edwards

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved plans for the Bell Museum of Natural History and the University’s sexual assault policy on Thursday and Friday, topics that have drawn public attention in recent months. 
Regents also approved a contract with trade workers on Friday, which marked the board’s first meeting for the 2015-16 academic year.
Bell Museum plans updated 
The board approved the Bell Museum’s preliminary layout, which will be close to 90,000 square feet.  
After original plans for the new museum were scaled back, legislators and museum advocates raised concerns that the space wouldn’t be adequate to serve the public. The updated design that regents approved includes features like classrooms and meeting locations that bring the total area of the project close to that of the original plans.
The cost of the project, which was originally expected to near $57 million, has now increased to about $64 million. State lawmakers have said they will contribute about $51.5 million, and the University and private donors will chip in for the remaining costs.
The museum design has taken an unorthodox journey to approval, Regent Michael Hsu said at the meeting. He said he hopes to get as many amenities into the building as possible. 
Regent Thomas Devine said at the meeting that museum plans were moving along smoothly, but amenities like the outdoor exhibits still require additional planning.
“There’s tens of thousands of school children that make their journey to the Bell Museum,” Devine said. “It’s a new front door to the St. Paul campus.”
Labor negotiations
Regents voted to implement a collective bargaining agreement with about 250 trade workers at the University on Friday.
The deal includes an expected wage increase of 2.6 percent and gives a lump-sum payment of $150 to every trade worker — employees such as painters, electricians and pipefitters — each July for the next three years.
Patti Dion, director of employee relations for the University, said at a committee meeting Thursday that the deal is unlike most other agreements because it is an “umbrella deal” that covers all of the many different classifications of workers.
She said projects for trade workers fluctuate throughout the year, adding that the low-commitment contract allows the University to have an adequate amount of workers when needed, but doesn’t force the University to pay them when there isn’t any work available.
The agreement is a unique contract that is desirable for the University, Vice President for Human Resources Kathryn Brown said.
Affirmative consent
The regents held a symbolic vote Friday to support the University’s new affirmative consent policy after the board delayed the policy’s advancement in July for a legal review of its implications.
The board held the vote despite giving permission late last month for University President Eric Kaler to implement the policy immediately.
“This has been a productive process,” Kaler said at Friday’s board meeting. “The board’s attention to the issue has resulted in a better policy.”
Hsu said the board will need to monitor the policy to ensure its effectiveness and said the board should explore penalties for violation of the policy as well.
“Since we are a research institution, we should probably use this as a research project,” he said. “Maybe we can be an institution that delivers some extra value to the entire country.”