U of M regent candidate slate is the most diverse, well qualified in history

From NFL playoff games to the results of an election, we all deal with disappointment in different ways. One of those ways is to discredit the process that came up with the result with which we disagree. That’s not an unusual reaction. It’s not necessarily wrong. It’s a natural and human reaction.

As chair of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC), I feel compelled to respond to the commentary by former University of Minnesota Regent Laura Brod that was recently published by MinnPost, when she criticized the RCAC and its recommendations of candidates for the Legislature to consider for election to the U of M Board of Regents this year.

Minnesota is unique among the 50 states in that the only time our bicameral Legislature is constitutionally required to come together in joint convention is for the purpose of electing regents for the University of Minnesota. That shows the special status the U of M has in our history – and the prominence our state’s founders placed on it.

To begin the process of electing regents every two years, the Legislature created the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, a group of 24 Minnesotans, half appointed by the House of Representatives and half by the Senate, charged with recruiting and recommending a slate of qualified candidates to the Legislature for their consideration. Included on the RCAC are four current state legislators – the chairs and ranking members of both the House and Senate higher education committees.

This year, we received nearly 50 applications for the four open seats and spent more than 25 hours in public meetings, interviewing and reviewing those candidates. Out of that process, the RCAC recommended 16 people to the Legislature for consideration, the maximum number we are allowed to recommend under state law.

The RCAC put significant effort into recruiting outstanding, diverse and qualified candidates – and that work paid off this year. The candidates we recommended are among the most qualified and the slate is the most diverse one in modern history. Seventy-five percent of the candidates are women or persons of color. Those candidates include: a former CEO of one of the state’s largest hospital systems, the first Hmong woman admitted to the Minnesota State Bar, a former interim president of Rochester Community and Technical College, both a retired Member of Congress and a retired federal magistrate, the head of the state’s Better Business Bureau, an expert in strategic planning from one of our leading community foundations, three former chairs of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, and two people who came to this country as refugees.

As former regent Brod pointed out, there was surprise and disappointment that current student regent, Abdul Omari, was not included on the list of recommended candidates for statewide at-large regent. He is a remarkable person and has served the state well as student regent. The RCAC’s public debate is recorded and available to hear online (www.rcac.leg.mn). As the public record shows, the debate centered largely around experience in comparison to the other candidates for the statewide at-large seat and the vote was very close.

Ultimately, legislators and the people of Minnesota can make their own judgment about the candidates recommended by the RCAC, as we are just the first step in a rather lengthy process that ends with the election of regents by the Legislature. There is always room to improve the process for selecting regents, but to suggest it is flawed just because it did not produce the result Brod was hoping for is a disservice to the people of Minnesota – and to the outstanding and diverse group of candidates seeking a seat on the Board of Regents.

Daniel Wolter of Burnsville is chair of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council.

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