Student governments dispute representatives to Regents selection process

The Council of Graduate Students passed a resolution in late April requesting to restructure the existing selection policy.

by Amie Stager

Ongoing disagreements between University of Minnesota student governments regarding the selection process of representatives to the Board of Regents has caused debates about the future of the process.

On April 30, the Council of Graduate Students passed a resolution requesting reform to the existing selection policy that would guarantee COGS a representative position. COGS members say they were left out of discussions about Regent representatives this year, while Minnesota Student Association and Professional Student Government members say COGS was unwilling to collaborate with them in the selection process.

In past years, a joint committee made up of executive leaders from COGS, PSG and MSA selected four student representatives to the board. According to Regent policy, these representatives must include a minimum of two MSA members and one COGS or PSG member.

According to COGS’ resolution, the policy has not been adequately updated to account for the autonomy of the two post-baccalaureate student governments, which were created after the 2015 dissolution of the unified Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. The resulting system doesn’t guarantee both COGS and PSG a student representative.

The committee selected three undergraduate students and a member of PSG to be representatives for the upcoming year. 

“It’s not true representation if there’s no graduate student on the board,” Sean Chen, president-elect of COGS, said.

Members of MSA and PSG say COGS members were unwilling to participate in the selection process. 

“In order to ensure excellent representation of our student body here in the Twin Cities, all three governments should participate in the selection,” PSG President Rachel Cardwell said in an email statement. 

Zach Sheffler, speaker of the COGS general assembly, said he was excluded from selection planning emails and was not consulted on the joint committee selection process. He added that COGS members didn’t receive representative applications.

Alanna Pawlowski, PSG president-elect, said COGS was invited to collaborate on the representative application in the beginning stages of the joint committee process, but they had already begun their internal process of choosing a representative, Pawlowski said. 

“When you have a mutual agreement, it’s difficult to stay true to policy when two parties are asking the one party to stay involved,” Pawlowski said. 

The three student governments have worked together in accordance with the bylaws to select representatives in previous years. In 2017, COGS adopted a new process to choose the representative, but no dispute followed because the chosen representative was selected by a joint committee of MSA, COGS and PSG.

MSA president Trish Palermo said COGS leaders did not show up to the joint committee this year and indicated they were going to elect their own representative. 

Pawlowski said PSG is committed to the joint selection process, but they want to continue collaborating in a way that incorporates the autonomy of COGS and its general assembly in the future. 

“The joint selection committee is valuable,” Pawlowski said. “Last year’s Regents valued knowing who was going to be on the team, knowing their strengths and weaknesses.”

The student governments are awaiting input from the board on the final representative appointments, Pawlowski said.