UMN Regents discuss Pioneer Hall renovation, state funding

The board also discussed new sexual misconduct policies at last week’s meeting.

Neha Panigrahy

University of Minnesota officials recently discussed state funding, a revamp of the school’s oldest residence hall and new sexual misconduct policies.

The University’s Board of Regents approved remodel schematics for Pioneer Hall, which was approved for a $104.5 million renovation last September, at a meeting last week. Regents also spoke on the State Legislature’s higher education omnibus bill — passed by a House and Senate committee for Governor Mark Dayton’s approval earlier this month — and new sexual assault policies.

Discussion on state legislature funding

University President Eric Kaler and other administrators updated regents on the Legislature’s higher education funding bill.

The bill would fund just 13 percent of the University’s requested $147.2 million increase. Administrators and students have expressed concern with the level of funding and language in the bill that would penalize the school if it didn’t make student service fees optional. Dayton previously told the Minnesota Daily he would veto the bill with that level of funding for the school.

University Government Relations Vice President Matt Kramer said at the meeting that optional student service fees would be especially challenging for campuses like Duluth that rely on the fees for athletics.

Regents also discussed autonomy issues that could arise from the state’s omnibus bill.

“Any attempt to dictate how we raise money from fees or tuition, or how we deploy those is a constitutional problem,” said Regent Richard Beeson at the meeting. “I have a real issue with it.”

The final version of the higher education bill includes an $18.6 million increase to University funding — down from $22 million in previous versions.

“We need to make sure we control our own cost within the University” said Regent Steve Sviggum in an interview.

Pioneer Hall renovation

Pioneer Hall’s approved renovation plans call to raise the number of beds in the dorm from 693 to 756. A new dining hall will also be built to feed 850 students across Superblock.

Regents debated including an estimated $5.5 to $6 million tunnel to connect all four Superblock buildings, but ultimately voted against it.

Michael Berthelsen, vice president for University Services, said the addition would result in a half-percent increase in student housing fees.

Kaler announces sexual misconduct initiative

In Kaler’s report to the board, he also announced an initiative to combat sexual misconduct at the University.

The initiative’s goals are to improve student education on sexual misconduct past freshman year through public awareness campaigns, form a committee to prevent sexual misconduct and create metrics to evaluate these efforts.

Kaler announced School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan would lead a group to oversee the initiative.