Regents must respect state and obey law

After an exhaustive search for the University’s new president, the Board of Regents announced last week that interim President Robert Bruininks had been selected to permanently succeed former President Mark Yudof. Unfortunately though, his selection has been tainted by the board’s recent decision to conduct the interview process in secret. The regents chose not to comply with the state’s open meeting law, which requires public institutions to conduct the hiring process in public by identifying candidates.

The argument against abiding by the open meeting law is ridiculous. The regents are arguing that the University is no longer subject to the state’s law requiring open meetings because it was formed before Minnesota achieved statehood. Although this argument was successfully used in one previous lawsuit objecting to the state’s hiring preference of veterans, the circumstances are quite different, and it has also previously been used unsuccessfully. Parties to the lawsuit against the University include The Minnesota Daily, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, as well as other media organizations. After several media organizations threatened to file an injunction to stop the secretive process, the regents hastily announced their decision to avoid that controversy, although the first lawsuit will still be pursued.

Besides, using a contrived legal justification for circumventing state laws is demeaning and insulting to the University community and Minnesota residents.

Ironically, both of these groups have supported the University financially, emotionally and patriotically for more than 150 years. Regardless of what the regents say, there was never legitimate concern that candidates would ultimately remove themselves from consideration for the position. Denying the public the opportunity to follow the decision was merely a convenience the regents wanted to offer the contenders. They will argue the current state of politics in academia is so competitive that in order to attract the top candidates, the meetings had to be closed to the public. Unfortunately, this is untrue as the University has considered and interviewed leaders for a century and a half, and has never been forced to select a lesser-qualified candidate. Since the vote was unanimous, all of the regents should be ashamed for using Clinton-style interpretations of truth to manipulate state laws for only a meager benefit.