UMN Regents respond to student government disputed election process

Student government officials will work together to elect student representatives for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.

The University's Board of Regents talk at a meeting on June 10, 2016.

Zach Bielinksi

The University’s Board of Regents talk at a meeting on June 10, 2016.

Amie Stager

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents have refused to accept the elected student representatives to the board for the upcoming academic year. 

A letter sent last week from the Office of the Board of Regents to leaders from the Council of Graduate Students, the Minnesota Student Association and the Professional Student Government stated it was “unable” to seat nominees, citing regent policy. The response comes amid an ongoing dispute among student government leaders over the selection process.

Since 2015, a joint committee composed of executive leaders from COGS, MSA and PSG select four student representatives from the Twin Cities campus to serve during the upcoming year.

This year, the joint committee elected three members of MSA and one from PSG as representatives for the next academic year. COGS members objected to the joint committee because they said there was a lack of consultation in the process, and instead elected their own representative through COGS general assembly

The COGS election caused disputes between student governments over the election process.

In last week’s letter written by the board’s executive director and University corporate secretary Brian Steeves, he wrote: “Since a unified selection process does not currently exist between COGS, PSG, and MSA, and no policies or protocols exist for how to resolve a selection dispute, the Office of the Board of Regents is unable to seat any of the 2018-19 student representatives advanced by your organizations.” 

The letter also states once the three governments agree on four representatives, they will be seated by regents for the upcoming school year.

Regents policy dictates four representatives are selected each year, with a requirement that one must be from COGS or PSG and two must be from MSA. The policy doesn’t specify how representatives are selected, but the language requires collaboration between the three governments.

Simran Mishra, incoming MSA president, said, she is disappointed with “COGS’ lack of collaboration.” 

Mishra said that MSA will work with PSG and COGS in the future to create a new process that ensures future collaboration. 

The letter also states policy regarding the election process will undergo a comprehensive review by the board during the 2019-2020 academic year. 

According to a statement from the Office for Student Affairs, OSA is working with the board and student governance groups to help with the selection process. 

“The process held earlier this year was unsettling,” said Alanna Pawlowski, incoming PSG president. “I’m happy to see that the [board] agreed it must be collaborative.”

Pawlowski said she hopes a formalized process is established after the comprehensive review.

Speaker of COGS General Assembly Zach Sheffler said he is content with the board’s decision. “It’s reaffirming that MSA and PSG agreeing does not constitute a majority,” he said.

Sheffler said he believes COGS should be able to object to the joint committee selection process because it is informal.