Sviggum to remain Regent

University of Minnesota Regent Steve Sviggum will give up his fellowship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, resolving his conflict of interest.

Steve Sviggum will remain on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents and give up his fellowship at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, he announced late Sunday night.

Sviggum, who was appointed to the board in February, had been at the center of a conflict of interest inquiry stemming from his two roles at the school.

In a letter to board leaders, Sviggum said he was disappointed to give up teaching, but “serving the best interests of the University of Minnesota is my unquestioned priority.”

Last week, an investigating group of three regents found that holding an unpaid spot on the board and a paid position at Humphrey was a conflict of interest and asked Sviggum to give up one of the roles.

“I think it’s basically been resolved,” Board Chair Clyde Allen said. “I think an honorable man made a tough decision. We appreciate that.”

Allen said the board will look at its policies and consider adding language that bars University employees from being appointed to the board in the future.

Sviggum, a former Speaker of the House and state legislator, has taught classes at the University for several years. But a new contract signed in early February expanded his duties, giving him an $80,000 salary to teach, fundraise, and to write editorials and possibly a book.

No wrongdoing was found on Sviggum’s part, Allen said. The two positions were simply incompatible.

As a regent, Sviggum would have been involved with decisions that could have affected him as an employee, including approving budgets and reviewing educational policies.

Allen said he’s pleased Sviggum chose to remain on the board and that he brings valuable legislative experience as the University awaits cuts to its state funding.  Sviggum’s teaching experience will also be a valuable addition to the board, Allen said.

Sviggum said he disagreed with the ruling, but agreed to abide by the recommendation. In the letter, he maintained that a significant difference existed between a fellowship and a professorship because his salary would be privately raised and his position gave him no role in faculty governance.

Larry Jacobs, who leads the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance and oversaw Sviggum at Humphrey, called Sviggum a “tremendous colleague” and a “very popular, very effective teacher.”

Jacobs wrote a letter of support to the board during the investigation, encouraging them to find an “appropriate formula” that would allow Sviggum to serve in both roles.

Sviggum helped provide the school with insight and access to the legislative process, Jacobs said in an interview Monday, and his classes were so popular that students often had to be turned away.

“It’s a big loss for us, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.  “It’s a testament to Steve Sviggum and the kind of person he is that he’s given up this teaching position to provide even more service to the University.”

The board’s next full meeting is in May after the end of the semester, and Sviggum, who currently teaches one class, is expected to continue teaching until then.

“I certainly hope we can make it possible for him to finish his teaching,” Allen said. “I suspect there will be little problem with that.”

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