Regent diversity has a long way to go

The Legislature will make the final call on Pawlenty’s recommendations for the board.

In case you missed the memo, the Board of Regents is the governing body of the University of Minnesota. Regents approve major policies and programs, elect the president of the University and look out for University finances.

Last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave his latest recommendations for the newest members of the Board. He recommended reappointing two current regents and bringing on two new women, one being an Asian-American law student.

This would slightly change the makeup of the board, with the previous 12-member board having 3 women and two people of color, and the newly-proposed 12-member board having four women and two people of color.

While trying to make the board more gender-equal would be seen by most as a general step in the right direction, with the new recommendations the board’s diversity would not increase, if by “diversity” we mean “number of people of color.”

But, of course, diversity is not only skin deep. Here are some examples of people who currently sit on the board: a retired radiologist, a physician/professor of pediatrics, a lawyer, the chair of the Metropolitan Council, a retired hospital administrator, a retired superintendent, the secretary/treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the executive vice president of Cargill, the President and CEO of Northern States Power Company, and, thankfully, a farmer.

You can see a trend here – powerful, wealthy people.

There are different ways to diversify the board than by having a few nonwhite members and four women. Diversity can come in the form of age, socioeconomic status, life experience, etc.

We know how important the regents are to the University, and that Pawlenty and the Legislature want to choose qualified candidates, but how about electing a schoolteacher, or having a board that has equal numbers of females and males, or considering an undergraduate student to be on the board?

The board still has a long way to go, in many different ways, before it can truly be considered “gender and racially diverse.”