Regents discuss disability resources, campus real estate transactions

The board also extended Mark Coyle’s employment agreement an additional three years at its October meetings.

by Helen Sabrowsky

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents discussed system-wide disability support services, extended Athletic Director Mark Coyle’s contract and reviewed real estate on the East Bank campus at meetings on Thursday and Friday.

Increased demand for disability services

The board discussed the best way to address an increased demand for disability support services across all five University campuses. Some campuses have also received increasingly complex accommodation requests.

Between fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018, the number of students and employees the Disability Resource Center served on the Twin Cities campus increased by 17 percent.

While it’s difficult for disability support offices to predict the needs of students and employees, it’s likely the demand for services and the complexity of the cases will continue to increase, said Julie Showers, associate vice president for equity and diversity, at the meeting. If so, she said disability support offices will need to increase staffing or reduce the level of services offered.

Factors contributing to the increase in disability requests include more individuals with disabilities entering college, mental health issues manifesting themselves while the student attends the University and the aging workforce, Showers said at the meeting.

“The fact that you have 37 private and semi-private spaces tells me the type of demand you’re up against, and you’re still short of spaces,” said Regent Peggy Lucas at the meeting.

Inclusive design of courses, programs, activities and facilities has improved access for individuals with disabilities before they need to utilize disability resources, according to information in the board’s docket material. Even though fewer accommodation letters are used when proactively planning, letters are still needed in some situations.

While the DRC has private and semi-private testing spaces, the University rents space in the Graduate Hotel to create more testing space during peak times, like finals, Showers said at the meeting.

“I just wanted to say on behalf of students, we are really appreciative of the work you do in making sure we get the accommodations we need,” Mckenzie Dice, a student representative to the board, said at the meeting. “That being said … it’s not enough, but that’s where there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

East Bank’s southeast gateway reviewed

The board also reviewed the planning efforts between the University and the University of Minnesota Foundation Real Estate Advisors in the Southeast Gateway on the East Bank and the Motley project area on the western edge of Prospect Park.

The plans are still in the early stages of development, Mike Berthelsen, vice president of University Services, said at the meeting. A large focus of the planning is how the University can partner with the private sector to develop the area, as well as consider the University’s future space needs, he said.

“This is a very important conversation as we begin to understand our view of two things,” University President Eric Kaler said at the meeting. “One, how do we develop and manage development on the east side of our campus and secondly, how we collaborate and cooperate with the University of Minnesota Foundation.”

UMFREA purchased land in Stadium Village in June that includes Stub and Herb’s, Stadium Village Plaza and Jimmy John’s.

“I strongly support this from both a strategic and financial standpoint, but this is very different … it makes some of our colleagues nervous, and it should, because this is a speculative business we’re embarking on,” said Regent Richard Beeson at the meeting.

Regents extend Mark Coyle’s employment

The board voted to amend the employment agreement of Mark Coyle, the athletic director of the Twin Cities campus — extending his employment by three years.

Regents Darrin Rosha, Michael Hsu and Randy Simonson voiced concerns about the amendment at the meeting, saying the decision should be made with the next University president.

“This would be appropriately done in consultation with the incoming president as it is a direct report to the president,” Rosha said at the meeting.

In his previous contract, Coyle still had two years of employment remaining, Rosha said at the meeting. By extending his employment an additional three years, he will be employed into the next presidency, he said.

“We are providing terms that maximize the risk for the incoming president,” Rosha said at the meeting.

The board received the contract for review late Wednesday evening, Hsu said at the meeting. He added the amendment would take control away from the incoming president.

“I don’t see the point in pushing this through today when nothing’s going to change from now and December,” Hsu said at the meeting. “I think that any candidate looking at this job would be interested in what’s going on in athletics and should have the ability to make a decision on it.”