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During its meeting Friday, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents voted to approve renovations to its academic health center and discussed changes to the Athletics Department, among other topics.
Regents also heard an update on sexual assault education for student athletes, voted to approve two long-standing infrastructure projects and voted to restructure the University’s Government and Community Relations department.
Coyle updates regents on sex assault prevention in athletics
Athletics Director Mark Coyle updated regents Friday on changes the department will make to decrease the likelihood of student athletes committing sexual assault.
Following the alleged sexual assault involving several football players earlier this year, Coyle said the University will now require all freshman student athletes to live in residence halls.
The school will also consider changes to its recruiting program.
Most first year athletes already live in dorms, but Coyle said the mandate could help the school provide additional sexual assault education.
He added the department will consider training host athletes with strict and clear expectations for high school recruits when they come to campus and update its training for current athletes.
While some regents praised Coyle for his commitment to sexual assault education in athletics, others said there is much more work to be done.
“I want to make sure it doesn’t come off as all sunshine and roses with this topic,” said Regent Darrin Rosha. “We’ve had these kinds of programs in the past. What are we going to be doing differently?”
Regent Laura Brod said the training in athletics needs to go beyond simply meeting set standards.
“There’s a difference between hearing and listening,” she said. “If you’re just checking the box, you won’t be changing the culture.”
Coyle said student-athletes get about four hours of training annually on elements of the student conduct code, like sexual harassment and assault, hazing and academic dishonesty.
Restructuring of Government and Community Relations
The board voted to appoint former president and CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce Matt Kramer as vice president for University and government relations — a newly-formed position.
Along with Kramer’s appointment, the board voted to restructure University relations, combining lobbying, public relations, marketing and community relations under Kramer’s leadership.
“I want a more uniform, consistent message about what the University is doing and I want one person to be responsible for the interaction with the Legislatures, the interaction with the media and the interaction with marketing,” Kaler said. “Mr. Kramer has got a perfect skillset to do that.”
Academic Health Center
The board voted unanimously to fund a $13.5 million project to renovate space in the Phillips Wangensteen Building, Moos Tower and 717 Delaware to make room for programming formerly housed in the VFW Cancer Research Center and Masonic Memorial Buildings on the East Bank campus.
Those buildings — designated as “do not invest” by University administration — will be mothballed and demolished once programming is moved to the renovated spaces.
They currently house clinical and research operations like the Schulze Diabetes Research program as well as cancer diagnosis and prevention programs.
“These are signature programs … they need a good home,” said Regent David McMillan, chair of the Facilities, Planning and Operations Committee.
Electric Steel Elevators and the Recreational Sports Bubble
After over three months of debate, regents voted Friday to relocate the displaced recreational sports bubble to the site of the Electric Steel Elevators near TCF Bank Stadium.
The bubble will be displaced with the construction of new track and field facilities as part of the Athletes Village project.
Regents debated alternative locations for the bubble after a group of preservationists sued the University in an attempt to halt demolition by claiming they are historic.
While the restraining order to halt demolition was not granted, attorney for the Friends of the Electric Steel Elevators Erik Hansen said the group pressed the matter in Hennepin County District Court.
“The University has made it clear that they’re not interested in cutting any kind of deal on this,” Hansen said.
University attorney Dan Herber said both the group and the University filed for summary motion at the end of January, asking the court to make a decision on whether demolition should be halted.
He said the court has until April to decide, but the University can demolish in the interim.
The cost of demolishing the elevators stands at just over $3 million. It will cost the University $6 million to relocate the recreational sports bubble and roughly $13 million for the track and field facility.