University Board of Regents seeks to broaden criteria for members

Regents make suggestions to the Regent Candidate Advisory Council on member selection criteria as positions open this coming year.

Abdul Omari and Thomas Anderson speak during the Universitys Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Sep. 14 at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Jack Rodgers

Abdul Omari and Thomas Anderson speak during the University’s Board of Regents meeting on Friday, Sep. 14 at the McNamara Alumni Center.

by Isabella Murray

The impending selection process of four members of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents began last week with the Regent Candidate Advisory Council(RCAC), a citizen group who are filtering regent applications before lawmakers choose members next session.

RCAC uses a statement of selection criteria for potential regents to recruit candidates, and the current board participates in the process by making suggestions to the statement. Some regents said at the September meeting that the language in the 2016 version of this criteria seemed limited.

“We shouldn’t be looking for the exact same people with the exact same experience base when we select for the board,” Regent Abdul Omari said at the meeting.

The criteria reviewed at the meeting included a section stating future candidates must have professional “experience in the governance and strategic oversight of large, complex organizations.” 

Regent Darrin Rosha said while experience in governance is a valuable asset on the board, the criteria needs to be inclusive enough to reflect the entire state.  

“I think there is a great value in having a candidate with a good concept of having a strategic vision of where higher education should be going,” Rosha said.

RCAC member Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said the changing composition of the committee has led the body to seek out certain candidates over others. 

“Alumni and administration [are] running the council now, that’s not why it was created,” Pelowski said. “They’ve come to a point now where they have a candidate in mind and they work to get that candidate in.”

Rosha said the process used to include a full range of candidates for the Legislature to decide from, but now yields a more narrow focus, favoring candidates from political or business backgrounds. 

A larger conversation about the make-up and reach of RCAC started last legislative session as a result. 

Former Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, who was previously chair of the Senate higher education committee, authored bills seeking to change how RCAC is structured and what candidates they can recommend. 

Fischbach left her seat in the Senate following the end of last session to serve as lieutenant governor under DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he doesn’t know who will pick up her efforts. He said he thinks reorganizing and reviewing RCAC won’t happen before the upcoming regent selection process.

“None of that’s going to happen in time for this round to occur,” Nornes said.

RCAC will meet Sept. 24 to review and revise this selection criteria.

University Board of Regents Vice Chair Ken Powell will visit an upcoming RCAC meeting with board suggestions for the regent selection process.

Omari said RCAC should seek candidates who might not necessarily have experience in large governing body, but rather candidates who are willing to develop the skills.

“Otherwise we’ll have a situation where every person coming might look or be of the same age, demographic and have similar experience,” Omari said at the meeting. 

Regents with terms expiring in 2019 are Peggy Lucas, Linda Cohen, Dean Johnson and Omari.