Sen. Sandy Pappas joins UMRA forum for candid discussion of regent selection
State Sen. Sandy Pappas joined legislative analyst Nathan Hopkins for UMRA’s January 2023 forum on the selection and election of University of Minnesota regents. They gave a master class on how this is accomplished and were candid about the process. Four regents are to be elected by the Minnesota Legislature in the coming weeks.
The process begins with the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC), a bipartisan group of individuals appointed by the Legislature to recruit and interview candidates and recommend to the Legislature the candidates to consider. In early January, the RCAC recommended 12 candidates for the four seats up for election. Most notably, the RCAC did not recommended the reelection of Ken Powell, the current chair of the Board of Regents. Sitting regents Steve Swiggum and Darrin Rosha did not apply through the RCAC process.
The Legislature can add candidates during the committee process, and any legislator can nominate a candidate from the floor during the joint session of the House and Senate conducted to elect the regents. Hopkins pointed out that this alternative way of election has been utilized as recently as 2021. He observed that the process, at the end, is very fluid and can produce unexpected results.
A political process
Pappas was even more forthcoming. She said, "The elections are a political process, and in recent years whichever party has had the majority has picked individuals aligned with the majority party." She noted that this year the Democrats are in the majority (104 to 97). She also noted that, occasionally, there is a bipartisan choice for a well-qualified candidate. Her example was Powell, the former CEO of General Mills.
Hopkins explained that the selection process is set forth in the University of Minnesota Charter, which was passed by the Territorial Legislature, perpetuated by the Minnesota Constitution, and affirmed by several Minnesota Supreme Court decisions.
Pappas and Hopkins emphasized that individuals can affect the election by expressing their preferences to their legislative representatives. Both thought that input from members of UMRA, who are very familiar with the University, would be particularly valuable.
To have an even bigger voice, Pappas suggested that UMRA members seriously consider applying to be on the RCAC, and possibly consider running to be a regent.
RCAC openings are publicized on the secretary of state’s website, Hopkins said. The next election to fill four seats on the Board of Regents will be in 2025.
As you may know, in mid-January MinnPost published an UMRA commentary about regent selection. Our primary message: The selection of regents should focus on fiduciary responsibility to the University and seek people of accomplishment and high integrity who will set aside political agendas.
The 2023 regent election will most likely occur in late February or early March. So let your representatives know what you think. Our thanks to Sandy Pappas and Nathan Hopkins for a well-presented and educational forum.
—Bill Donohue, UMRA Program Committee member
A preview of the 2023 UMN regent selection process
Tue, January 24 2023, 12pm
Minnesota House of Representatives
Event to be held via Zoom.
UMRA’s January 2023 forum will feature Nathan Hopkins, legislative analyst at the Minnesota House of Representatives, for a discussion of how regents of the University of Minnesota are chosen. The 12 members of the Board of Regents serve staggered 6-year terms. Every two years, one-third of the seats are up for election.
Our forum at noon on Tuesday, January 24, via Zoom will be particularly timely because four seats are up for election in the 2023 legislative session.
The regents comprise the most important governance body for the University. They are responsible for everything from choosing the president to establishing budgets, tuition, and all major policies.
A list of 29 applicants for the four seats was announced in early December by the Regents Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC). The RCAC will recommend candidates for the four positions in mid-January, typically two or three for each seat, and the Legislature will conduct a rare joint session of the Minnesota House and Senate to elect the regents in February. It is an arcane process prescribed by the University Charter and a couple of statutes.
As reported by The Minnesota Daily, the list of applicants includes former regent Michael Hsu, law professor Richard Painter, and current undergraduate student government president Flora Yang. The deadline to apply was December 6.
Hopkins, a non-partisan legislative analyst in the House Research Department, will explain for us the process. He is the expert who explains the process—including the selection criteria, the needs of the board, and its gender, racial, and ethnic balance—to the regent nomination joint legislative committee, so we will be as well informed as members of the Legislature on how this is done.
Of the four positions open for election this year, three represent congressional districts and one is elected from the state at large. The regents currently holding those seats and the years they were elected are:
- 2nd Congressional District (south Twin Cities metro area and southeastern Minnesota), Regent Steve Swiggum, 2011, 2017
- 3rd Congressional District (suburbs of Hennepin, Carver, and Anoka counties), Regent Darrin Rosha 1989, 2015, 2017
- 8th Congressional District (northeastern Minnesota including Duluth), Tadd M. Johnson, 2022 (appointed to fill the remainder of an existing term)
- At-large seat, Chair of the Board Kendall J. Powell, 2017
Neither Swiggum nor Rosha re-applied for their seat.
Hopkins is a graduate of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and has practiced law in both the public and private sectors. He has served in his current role since 2016. His responsibilities include staffing committees; drafting legislation; and providing policy analysis to members of the Minnesota House, focusing on civil law, government data practices, and higher education.
Please register for this Zoom webinar and join us at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24, to discuss the election of the people who govern the University.
—Bill Donohue, UMRA Program Committee
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