Editorial: Legislature must go through traditional regent election process

If the Legislature declines to divert from the decades-old process, the best interests of the University and its students will succumb to party politics.

Daily Editorial Board

State legislators are dragging their feet deciding who will fill the four open seats for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents — an entity responsible for carrying out some of the most pressing problems facing the University. If the House cannot decide on the four new regents soon, decision-making power falls to Gov. Tim Walz, according to reporting from the Minnesota Daily. Appointed regents would only serve a two-year term, as opposed to the typical six-year term.

Some lawmakers have raised concerns regarding the effectiveness of hand-picked regents, which includes their ability serve the University’s best interest. The lack of an election could make the terms of appointed regents less effective than others in the past, especially because they have four fewer years to serve. This would also set a dangerous precedent for future elections.

Will divided politics continue being the main influencer of who is appointed to serve the University in bipartisan positions?

The often-overbearing politics surrounding the University isn’t new — higher education administration has become increasingly political in recent years. We saw this politicalization in March 2018, when the Legislature voted Randy Simonson to the board. Several lawmakers told the Daily that Simonson’s stance on a reproductive health care fellowship, which included abortion training, helped him gain votes.

As legislators try to further their own interests and slow decisions, members of the University are stuck in the midst of a highly-polarized, ineffective and futile election process. We urge legislators to do their job and choose regents who can be constructive leaders for the University. Going through the normal regent election process ensures one of Minnesota’s largest institutions is sufficiently governed.

New regents and the individuals selecting them must make a conscious commitment to the board’s diversity. According to a MinnPost interview Daniel Wolter, the chair of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, the group of candidates up for debate is one of the most diverse in history. 

If the legislature continues dragging its feet in selecting regents, it will ultimately show its lack of commitment to the board’s diversity and de-prioritize student and University needs. This should always be at the forefront of the House and Senate when making decisions regarding the University, as a stronger University betters the state of Minnesota.

The legislature should ensure that the Board of Regents more accurately reflects our student body and state. It’s the duty of those deciding who will fill the regent seats to make decisions with timeliness and diversity in mind. Doing so won’t only help promote diversity and strong, careful decision-making this year, but it sends a necessary message about the University’s commitment to bettering its community and state.