Candidate pool flawed, students say

Campus leaders claim that the Board of Regents candidates don’t represent students well.

by Christopher Aadland

Student leaders at the University of Minnesota say the pool of candidates vying to fill five open Board of Regents seats lacks diversity and applicants who can relate to students.

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council recently cut the list of candidates down to 10 people, but some council members and students say more could be done to attract younger and more diverse regent candidates.

Joey Daniewicz, a math senior and advisory council member, said he was disappointed that most of the regent applicants weren’t younger or from diverse backgrounds.

“I think there’s a huge lack of diversity, and I think that the most pronounced one is a lack of diversity in age,” he said. “That showed during the interviews.”

Councilmember Pat Duncanson said although recruiting diverse candidates is a priority for the group, some members were more concerned with selecting the most experienced candidates this election cycle.

Regents who have served 12 years, or two terms, on the board will leave their spots this year, which means a lot of experience will be lost, he said.

Still, Duncanson said the advisory council could have done more to entice diverse candidates.

“We’ve tried and made a conscious effort to attract a diverse group of candidates that are experienced,” he said. “That being said, we can probably do better.”

Attracting younger applicants can be a challenge because the council and the Legislature prioritize experience over age and diversity, said Drew Coveyou, communications director for the Minnesota Student Association.

“It is very much biased against younger people applying and attaining regencies,” he said. “No matter how much experience they have with the University, they just don’t pick young people to be regents often.”

Coveyou said more diverse and younger regents can better acknowledge the needs of students.

“They bring a more modern perspective to what higher education means to young people,” he said.

To give students more of a voice in the regents selection process, which takes place every two years, lawmakers passed a bill in 2003 that allowed two students to serve on the council.

MSA President Joelle Stangler said it’s important to have students involved in the process because they are aware of student issues and can help select qualified candidates.

“As a student, I might prioritize [a candidate] who is interested in: ‘How do we match students to careers?’ ‘How do we make sure students have a low amount of debt?’ or ‘How we train a better workforce?’” she said. “Whereas someone else … might be thinking of ‘What does the University do for the state?’”

Despite the candidate advisory council having more of a student voice, Daniewicz said more could be done to draw in more diverse candidates. But before this can happen, the council itself must become more diverse, he said.

“If [the advisory council] established some diversity first, it would definitely make it a lot easier to get a diverse group of candidates,” he said.

After he finishes his two-year term on the council, Daniewicz said he’ll apply for a full six-year term and focus on recruiting younger and more diverse regent candidates.