12 candidates vie for four open Board of Regents seats

A joint legislative committee will make recommendations to the full legislature later this week.

Candidates respond to questions asked by moderators at the Regents Candidate Forum at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Image by Meagan Lynch

Candidates respond to questions asked by moderators at the Regents Candidate Forum at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

by Kevin Beckman

After days of interviews from a screening council, the list of candidates for the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents was narrowed to 12 last month.

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council — the body that screens and recommends candidates — released its recommendations Jan. 6. As the time for selection draws near for the four open seats, legislators and RCAC members explained what they want from the regent candidates.

The candidates participated in a forum hosted by the University Alumni Association Wednesday where they answered questions regarding their qualifications and priorities.

The state House and Senate higher education committees will meet later this week to recommend nominees they will present at a joint convention to finalize the picks later this month.

Those the RCAC and legislative committees don’t select or consider can still be nominated for the board by a legislator.

Rep. Drew Christensen, R-Savage, who serves on the House Higher education committee, said he’s looking for candidates who are passionate for the school and the state but aren’t afraid to face the administration.

“It’s important that … they’re also willing to look at the University with a critical eye and make sure we’re constantly making improvements and that they’re willing to hold the president and the administration accountable to measurable goals and progress,” he said.

Minnesota Student Association President and RCAC Member Abeer Syedah said the candidate finalists should address issues like campus sexual assault and college affordability, and they should listen to student concerns.

“Anyone who serves in higher ed[ucation], but especially at a regent level … you make decisions that will impact students who you may or may not have any relationship with,” Syedah said. “That’s where that piece about having an open mind, listening and gathering feedback is going to be important.”

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said legislators should look for candidates able to address a wide array of issues.

“I’ve never been a single-issue person,” he said. “I’m looking for somebody … with a good overview or at least a broad appreciation for what that job involves and somebody who is going to be looking out for the best interests for the entire University.”

Ardell Brede, chair of the RCAC, said many candidates emphasized in interviews that they wanted to view policies and procedures with a close eye and gain accountability for the University administration.

“When you go through this, you just think ‘Wow, there’s some great people who are applying to be on the Board of Regents,’” Brede said. “The difficulty is you have to pick somebody.”