Regents get political

Political partisanship and loyalty is corrupting the Board of Regents.

Daily Editorial Board

Last week, Regent Steve Sviggum accepted a job as communications and executive assistant of the Senate Republican Caucus. According to the chair of the Board of Regents and the University of Minnesota general counsel, Sviggum did not consult with either of them about whether this position would constitute a conflict of interest. The extent of his efforts was a conference call between himself, the chair and the vice chair of the Board of Regents. ThatâÄôs hardly thorough.
The conflict of interest in SviggumâÄôs new position is clear âÄî it is an obvious violation of the employment-related conflict of interest provision of the boardâÄôs code of ethics. There is no way being employed by the Senate Republican Caucus will not affect SviggumâÄôs independence of judgment in his work on the Board of Regents âÄî there will be significant pressure to carry out the Republican agenda for higher education.
This is only the latest development in the politicization of the Board of Regents. In February 2011, the Legislature selected Laura Brod as its at-large regent candidate, a position she had not been nominated for. Brod was a Republican legislator whose term ended the month before her selection. Before selecting her, the Republican delegation met twice to discuss their selection, excluding Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators. House higher education committee Chairman Bud Nornes explained the selection with an alarming quote: âÄúItâÄôs hard to expect friends to not vote for you.âÄù
We are not singling out Republicans but rather warning of the loyalty, partisanship and nepotism that surround the corrupting work of Sviggum and Brod on the Board of Regents. Now that SviggumâÄôs job has drawn public criticism, we hope the board will act diligently to guard against partisan influence.