State Rep. Jaros proposes to change U’s governing system

by Patrick Hayes

Minnesota state Rep. Mike Jaros, DFL-Duluth, recently wrote a letter to the University Board of Regents recommending the University change its governing system to avoid internal conflicts of interest.
Jaros recommended that the regents appoint an independent staff of non-University employees. He said the regents have to accept the information the administration gives them under the current system.
“I believe that problems such as the Gopher basketball scandal, which cost the University money and embarrassment, could have been avoided with the governing board’s independent staff,” Jaros said in the letter.
The regents have a seven-member support team employed by the University that manages their monthly agenda, drafts docket materials, maintains the boards policies and responds to public queries.
The staff’s executive director, Ann Cieslak, is appointed by the regents. Cieslak in turn hires the additional staff members who report directly to the regents.
“I feel we have a sufficient independent staff,” said Regent Chair Patricia Spence. She added that Jaros probably doesn’t understand the operations of the University’s governing systems.
In his letter, Jaros also said that the University president should act strictly as a system head and that he and the provost should not be stationed on any of the University campuses.
University President Mark Yudof’s office is in Morrill Hall. Jaros said this enables Yudof to focus on issues dealing more with the Twin Cities campus and less with the University’s coordinate campuses.
Spence said Yudof should be on the Twin Cities campus because it is the largest and oldest.
She also said Yudof, along with the regents, makes a point to regularly visit the other University campuses. At various times during the year, the Board of Regents hold their monthly meetings at the other campuses.
The September meeting was held in Morris, Minn., and the November meeting was held in Duluth, Minn.
In 1987, Jaros introduced a bill that would have required the University to adopt his recommendations for a more independent governing system. However, Jaros said the bill did not pass because of lobbying efforts made by then-University President Ken Keller.
If the regents and the University do not adopt his current recommendations, Jaros said he will introduce a similar bill during the next legislative session.
Spence said she has not heard any criticism from other legislators.
Generally, legislators are not concerned with the University’s governing system, said Mike Wilhelmi, aide to Higher Education Committee chair and state Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls.
It is not clear whether legislators can make the University adopt the recommendations. The University is constitutionally separate from the state of Minnesota.
Spence sent a response to Jaros and said she plans to visit him.
“I appreciate it when legislators raise questions because we need communication with them,” Spence said. “I hope (Jaros) will be satisfied with my response.”
Patrick Hayes covers the Board of Regents and welcomes comments at [email protected]