Legislative committee picks four candidates for open UMN Board of Regents seats

The finalists include three incumbents and a former member of the board.

Steve Sviggum makes his opening statement at the joint legislative committee for the Board of Regents candidates nomination at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Meagan Lynch

Steve Sviggum makes his opening statement at the joint legislative committee for the Board of Regents candidates nomination at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Kevin Beckman

Legislators recommended three current regents and a former board member on Tuesday for four open seats on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents.

A joint meeting of the Senate and House Higher Education Committees nominated former-regent Steve Sviggum and incumbent regents Darrin Rosha, David McMillan and Tom Devinefor the open positions after interviewing finalists.

Sviggum, who was not screened by the Regent Candidate Advisory Council — which screens and recommends candidates — was nominated for consideration at the meeting. Legislators voted to nominate him for the state’s second congressional district seat.

Legislators nominated two other candidates who weren’t selected by the council on Tuesday.

Sviggum, a former Minnesota House Speaker, was forced to resign from the board in 2012 after one year as a regent when he took a job with the state Senate Republicans Caucus, which some on the board saw as a conflict of interest.

On Tuesday, Sviggum emphasized the need to increase four-year graduation rates and cut administrative costs.

“We need to become more efficient. We need to reward the University and the citizens based on that performance,” he said. “The performance has to come from the University to the [legislature] and to the citizens of Minnesota to justify the dollars which [the legislature] gives the University to drive the engine of Minnesota.”

Rosha, a two-year incumbent and former at-large representative to the board, was nominated to represent the third district.

He also noted high administrative costs and said the University should lower the cost of attendance to boost enrollment.

McMillan, the board’s vice-chair, was chosen for the eighth district seat, and Devine was selected for the at-large position.

McMillan said he wants to prioritize aligning the University’s research and education missions with the needs of Minnesotans and prioritize higher education affordability for Minnesota residents.

“We need to continue to refine and rethink our admissions and tuition strategies and our long-term enrollment strategies,” he said.

Devine also emphasized the importance of research and community outreach.

“We have a hand in shaping the future of Minnesota,” he said. “The research we support will lead to a healthier, smarter and more economically-driven Minnesota.”

The nominees focused on a need for transparency in University spending, as well as more board oversight in approving large financial transactions, like coaching contracts.

All four nominated candidates said they think large coaching contracts — like that of recently-hired head football coach P.J. Fleck — should fall under board approval. The board will consider at meetings this week whether regents should keep that authority.

Among other topics discussed during the meeting were raising the Medical School’s national rank, containing administrative costs, admitting more Minnesotan students and making it cheaper for in-state students to attend the University.

A joint convention of the full state Legislature will meet later this month to elect candidates to the board.

Candidates not chosen by the joint committee can still be nominated by a legislator for potential election to the board.