Alumni host regent forum

Regent candidates answered questions in front of a crowd Tuesday at the Capitol.

Anna Weggel

Candidates for the four open spots on the University’s Board of Regents spoke in front of faculty, students and community members on Tuesday at the Capitol.

The University Alumni Association sponsored its sixth Regent Candidate Forum, in which moderator Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer for the Star Tribune, presented previously submitted questions to the candidates.

National Alumni Association President Andrea Hjelm said the forum will help people decide which candidates they want to support by calling regents and informing the public.

“We’re all part of the process,” Hjelm said.

A reception preceded the forum, in which candidates socialized with staff members, legislators and other regents.

Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, and education committee chairman, said the reception gave him a chance to get to know the candidates better.

“It’s a chance to visit the candidates one on one,” Kelley said.

Regents Chairman David Metzen said the University’s regent-selection process is “just how it should work.”

“It’s always about relationships and getting to know people,” he said.

Candidates first spoke about their professional experiences and what they felt they could contribute to the board.

They also discussed their ideas on topics such as the University’s budget, teacher retention and graduation rates.

Candidate Margaret Leppik said she thinks scholarships should be based on need rather than merit.

“If we can’t inspire students, we’re going to be in real trouble,” she said. “It’s not just the job of the University – it’s the responsibility of K-12, the Legislature and the state as a whole.”

Regent Anthony Baraga, who is up for re-election, said the problem is that some students cannot access the University because of tuition rates.

“With tuition the way it is now, we’re still having a record number of applicants,” he said. “The market is fine – access is the problem.”

Regent Dallas Bohnsack, who is up for re-election, said he thinks students are being forced to pick their majors based on how much debt they will have after college.

“We must have a public policy that lowers student debt,” he said.

All candidates agreed board members should act as teachers for the University community.

“The University is an incredibly expensive institution to operate – how many people know what the University actually does?” candidate Edward Borowiec said. “The board has a primary responsibility to get that information out.”