Students raise concerns about lack of consultation, search committee in Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations hire

In a letter to President Joan Gabel, student government leaders criticized the University’s lack of process, transparency and consultation.

James+Farnsworth%2C+communications+director+for+the+Minnesota+Student+Association%2C+poses+for+a+portrait+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept+24.

Jasmin Kemp

James Farnsworth, communications director for the Minnesota Student Association, poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Sept 24.

Ava Thompson, Campus Activities Reporter

In a letter addressed to University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel in September, student government leaders expressed concerns about the lack of process, transparency and community consultation in the recent hire of Myron Frans, the senior vice president of finance and operations.

In this role, Frans is responsible for overseeing the University’s Budget Office, Office of Investments and Banking and University Services, which includes the University of Minnesota Police Department. He was appointed to the position in August.

“Our concerns surrounding this hire do not relate to the candidate who was selected, rather the lack of process that took place related to the hire,” the letter read.

A typical hiring process involves a public posting of the job and a search committee made up of students, faculty and other University stakeholders who then engage with the candidates through public forums and campus tours, said James Farnsworth, the author of the letter and a student senator in the College of Education and Human Development.

“The main red flag was that there was no search committee,” Farnsworth said.“Most of our concern on the outset was about the fact that there was no search, and there was no public process, and it seemed to me that a lot of key stakeholders seemingly weren’t aware of this until the contract was signed.”

Gabel said the students’ concerns are legitimate because the University did not conduct its typical formal consultation or search, a process which generally takes at least a year.

“To have that limbo during this financial crisis time felt like a vulnerability that the University shouldn’t allow at this key, critical moment. Stability [and] certainty seemed more important than the open consultation,” Gabel said.

Despite forgoing the initial search committee and consultation, Gabel said she is dedicated to involving more stakeholders from the University community going forward.

“We just didn’t do the formal consultation that we would normally do, but we’re going to do that now. But it will be consultation in the setting of priorities in how we make the decisions that we make in figuring out how to include student faculty and staff voices in the difficult decisions,” she said.

In the letter, students also raised concerns about Frans’ lack of experience with public safety policy in a position that oversees the budget of the UMPD.

Student government leaders said this was especially concerning given the police killing of George Floyd this summer. Prior to this role, Frans served as a practicing tax attorney and the commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget.

“We imagine the University [c]ommunity would have questioned candidates about their background in public safety and philosophy in supervising UMPD. The University [c]ommunity has been excluded from participating in such important conversations,” the letter said.

When asked how he hopes to get community members involved in police reform discussions, Frans said he hopes to work with Cedric Alexander, former police chief and police reformist, appointed to ensure students have a safe environment.

“There are no easy answers, other than to say that we have to make some change. We have to engage throughout the community with the students and faculty and staff in ways that are different from what we’re doing now,” Frans said.

Mattea Allert, the speaker of the Council of Graduate Student Government and a signer of the letter, said that she hopes the University will be more transparent with its stakeholders going forward.

“I think it’s really important to maintain transparency, especially if you are running a big institution. I feel like there have been some concerning points with this administration in regards to students sort of not being invited to the metaphorical table,” she said.