Steve Sviggum gave his resignation to the Board of Regents two weeks ago, prompted by the board’s finding of a conflict of interest in his position with the Minnesota Senate GOP caucus.
While he continually maintained that a conflict of interest did not exist or could be managed, the Board’s ethics rules still forbid even a perceived conflict of interest. With the state Legislature’s already dismal support of this institution, any perceived conflict is a large liability to our future opportunities and had to be resolved.
What seems strange is that Sviggum chose to continue his role as an executive assistant and communications director for the GOP caucus rather than the far-reaching and influential role of regent here at the University of Minnesota. He was the only member of the board who fought outspokenly against administrative costs and his past experience as a state representative conditioned him to put the public’s interest ahead of the interest of administrators. In a time where the Board of Regents seems to merely be a rubber stamp for Morrill Hall, his was a valuable voice. Sviggum’s absence from the board will have lasting effects on students.
The Board of Regents’ ultimatum of choosing one position or the other was the right decision. The perceived conflict of interest was bad for the University and had to be eliminated. It is lamentable, however, that after a life of service to our state, Sviggum chose politics over guiding the University. The Board of Regents did well to get rid of a conflict of interest, but it would have been better for the University had Sviggum stayed on and continued his good work as a regent rather than working for the Senate GOP caucus.