Legislators, tenure fight contributed to Kim’s exit

by Jessica Steeno

In a surprise announcement Tuesday night, Regent Hyon Kim withdrew her candidacy for a second term on the Board of Regents.
Her decision makes Kim the fourth regent this academic year to leave the 12-member board. In all, five seats have opened since October.
Kim said the lack of support from legislators in her district along with her desire to commit more time to her own business contributed to her decision not to run for re-election. She faced an uphill road; nearly half the applicants to the board are running for her seat.
“The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a slap in the face,” Kim said. “I’m also assessing my time. I’m a small businesswoman, and I need to put my 24 hours a day into this business. I sacrificed my personal life for the University, and now the Legislature is saying, ‘let’s get rid of her.'”
Regent Stanley Sahlstrom, who was the first board member to announce his retirement, said Kim “appeared to be very concerned with all the issues that faced the board of regents, so I am very surprised. I’m sorry to see her leave.”
Many legislators were concerned that Kim was too outspoken on the tenure issue, that she was pushing too hard for the controversial reforms.
“She’s aligned herself with a faction of the board that has been very detrimental to the University,” said Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul. “Primarily this was with the tenure issue, which was unnecessary, inflammatory, and very damaging to the U.” Cohen represents the fourth congressional district, from which Kim was appointed.
“I thought it was wise for her to resign,” said Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, who also represents the fourth district. “I thought that the tenure issue had put the icing on the cake of a lot of the people’s concerns about the Board of Regents, and that she had run into so much trouble with so many legislators being unhappy with that.”
However, Kim’s supporters called her an advocate for student issues.
“Regent Kim is a really good student regent,” said Minnesota Student Association President Helen Phin. “She’s been a proven leader for student causes on the board, and I am disappointed that she has chosen not to seek re-election.”
Kim was the first Asian-American to be elected to the board, and many of her supporters expressed concern that diversity among board members might diminish with her resignation.
“I think she does provide a valuable perspective as somebody who is a graduate of the U, and who is a woman of color,” said Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul. “She’s concerned about access to low-income students and communities of color, and now we’re not going to have that. There are plenty of qualified white males out there who want to be regents. It is difficult to find a qualified person of color who is willing to put the time and the work into it, especially when you’re vilified by the governor.”
Even those who have not been supporters of Kim acknowledged her contribution as a woman of color.
“I think she’s really brought an awareness to the Board of Regents of issues of inclusiveness and affirmative action,” said Greiling. “Being a woman of color, I think that was her contribution.”
But Phin was not especially concerned about the board losing the perspective of a person of color, saying that anyone with a personal commitment to issues important to students is a credit to the University.
Regent Wendell Anderson will not seek a third term as regent either. In December, Jean Keffeler resigned from the board and has been replaced by Michael O’Keefe. Regent H. Bryan Neel is seeking election to a second term on the board.