UMN Board of Regents selection narrows down at Legislature

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council voted on recommendations last week, with the current Board Chair, Kendall Powell, not moving forward.

The+Board+of+Regents+convene+for+their+September+meeting+at+the+McNamara+Alumni+Center+on+Thursday%2C+Sept.+9.

Liam Armstrong

The Board of Regents convene for their September meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Sept. 9.

by Maya Marchel Hoff

During the most recent step in this year’s University of Minnesota Board of Regents election, the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC) voted Jan. 13 on which candidates will move to the next stage in the selection process.

The candidates to fill the four Board seats up for reelection this year will be selected in a joint vote in the Legislature before the end of the session this spring.

The RCAC’s most recent vote will move several applicants to the regent nomination joint committee composed of representatives and senators from the higher education budget and policy divisions. This separate committee votes on which candidates will be recommended to state lawmakers during the joint session vote.

The council recommended 12 of the 18 applicants to be considered in the joint committee. Although these names will be brought to the joint committee, the RCAC’s recommendations do not have to be followed and other candidates can be considered throughout the election process.

Regents Steve Sviggum and Darrin Rosha, from Congressional Districts 2 and 3 respectively, are not running for reelection, while Regent Tadd Johnson, District 8, and Board Chair Kendall Powell, who fills one of the at-large seats on the board, had hoped to retain their positions.

Four candidates moved forward for the at-large seat, including the University’s Undergraduate Student Government president, Flora Yang, and the Minnesota Future Farmers of America Foundation’s executive director, Val Aarsvold. The other candidates are Program Director Rebecca Siekmeier at the Minnesota Technology Association and the University’s former men’s gymnastics coach Mike Burns.

The candidates who did not receive enough votes for the at-large seat include Powell and former regent Michael Hsu. The council selected Yang over Hsu in the final vote.

Many committee members expressed concern about recent controversies related to the Board, including the comments made by Sviggum at an October Board meeting that questioned the diversity of the student body at the University’s Morris campus.

“The comments made by Sviggum and Chair Powell and no comment from the president really was a dark point in this process,” council member Edward Reynoso said during the vote session. “Moving forward a student candidate to have a true voice for students is something that is going to engage them more in this process.”

The council recommended both Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins and West St. Paul City Councillor Robyn Gulley for the District 2 seat. University law professor Richard Painter did not receive enough votes after council members expressed concern about whether he would resign from his professor position if elected to the Board.

All candidates for District 3 were sent through, including William Humphries, owner of a handful of Minnesota’s Five Guys franchises, and former United States representative Bill Luther. Allina Health President Penny Wheeler and President of the Minnesota Nurses Association Mary Turner were also recommended.

Both Johnson and Susan Cohen, president of the Center for Regulatory Research, received the council’s recommendation for the District 8 seat. Gov. Tim Walz appointed Johnson to the Board last year to fill David McMillian’s vacancy when he stepped down to become the interim chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

The candidates will take part in another public interview at the University of Minnesota Alumni Association’s public regent candidate forum on Jan. 31 at the Minnesota Capitol.