A scripted search

The presidential search process should serve as a valuable lesson for the new president, Eric Kaler, on how not to run a taxpayer-funded institution.

Daily Editorial Board

 

At last ThursdayâÄôs regents meeting, Chairman of the Board of Regents, Clyde Allen, almost skipped over president-select Eric KalerâÄôs introductory remarks during the choreographed public interview âÄî and the perfunctory vote that followed. He made a telling comment.

âÄúI should look at the script,âÄù Allen quipped.

Indeed, thatâÄôs all the regents really did in the presidential search process âÄî at least in public. ThursdayâÄôs meeting was the finale to the carefully scripted procedure in which the regents vigorously prevented public scrutiny of the hunt for the next president of the University of Minnesota. In effect, the regents pulled one over students, faculty, staff and taxpayers; a 12-member board chose secrecy over transparency in picking the leader of one of the stateâÄôs largest public institutions.

We learned Friday from reports that the regents met with Kaler behind closed doors during his campus visit. These gatherings âÄî which appeared on no public itinerary because they apparently werenâÄôt âÄúformalâÄù âÄî were structured specifically to avoid MinnesotaâÄôs Open Meeting Law.

The Open Meeting Law says regents may meet privately in groups of three. But they cannot do so serially (meaning, in this case, meeting with Kaler in one group of three after the other). ItâÄôs not clear whether regents met serially with Kaler behind closed doors. If they did, it could open the door to another lawsuit against the University for violating the stateâÄôs sunshine laws.

We urge Kaler not to carry over the regentsâÄô preference for scripted subterfuge over sincere public dialogue and transparency. The former is not the way our state institutions should conduct business. Public trust disappears where the public eye canâÄôt see.