Sviggum, Brod among four new U of M regents

Steve Sviggum
Steve Sviggum

The process to fill four vacant seats on the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents culminated yesterday in a near party-line vote that left DFLers fuming and Republicans vaguely smug.

The two highest-profile candidates for the board — former House Speaker Steve Sviggum and former state Rep. Laura Brod — were among four regents elected by a joint legislative convention on Monday. DFLers say that Sviggum and Brod, who will now fill six-year terms on the University’s governing board, got elected with a lot of help from their friends in the Republican majority.

Regents, who receive no pay, work with the university’s president on the system’s budget, policies and capital improvement efforts. The 12-seat board includes a post representing each of Minnesota’s eight Congressional Districts and four at-large positions.

Laura Brod
Laura Brod

Brod, Sviggum and the other two candidates — current Regent David Larson, of Wayzata, and David McMillan, of Duluth, who has served on the state Chamber of Commerce’s board — were recommended to the Legislature by a combined meeting of the House and Senate Higher Education Committees last week.

‘Most overt display of partisan politics’
DFLers raised hell after that meeting, calling the process highly political and partisan. Discussion on the House floor yesterday was similarly divisive.

“[That meeting] became the most overt display of partisan politics that has ever invaded the regents selection process in the 150 years of the University of Minnesota,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights. “If that’s what you want, that’s what you got.”

But sheer numbers, even with the blanket of snow that coated Minnesota, outweighed Democrats’ protests. In the end, Republican candidates for positions in the state’s Second, Third and Eighth Congressional Districts, as well as one at-large post, were chosen.

Democrats asserted that secret meetings without DFL representation occurred in the Second Congressional district to nominate a candidate who ultimately wasn’t chosen. While some Republican lawmakers, like Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, scoffed at the notion of a covert meeting, others at least offered it tacit acknowledgement.

“If people want to get together to talk about things, they’re allowed to,” said Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Michelle Fischbach.

Democrats also contended that even during their previous majorities the Legislature chose candidates based on qualification rather than party affiliation.

Republicans scoffed at the notion.

“Partisan politics have been involved for many years,” GOP Sen. Claire Robling said with a slight smile. “This is probably the first time Republicans haven’t been frustrated.”

Hunter was board’s sole labor representative
The choice of Brod, who replaced sitting Regent Steven Hunter, the board’s only labor representative, also drew Democrat’s ire.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL lead on the Senate Higher Education Committee, said seniority and experience are important components for success governing the university. She called Hunter the “workforce of the board.”

Long-time labor supporter Rep. Tom Rukavina pleaded with Republicans on the House floor to “give us one, just one,” speaking of Hunter, an AFL-CIO leader.

“Don’t turn back a tradition that has been around for over 75 years,” he said. “Don’t slap working people in the face.”

‘A good set of recommendations’
Unsurprisingly, Republicans supported their own choices. Fischbach said the committee she co-chaired last week sent a “good set of recommendations” to the Legislature, and Robling said Brod and Sviggum have more diversity to their backgrounds than just legislative service.

Both Brod and Sviggum said they hope to drastically improve the university, which Brod called the state’s “jewel.”

They’ve had months to learn about the university and hone their positions, undergoing interviews with a citizen council and countless meetings with legislators to gain support.

Although the months-long process afforded the new regents some time to prepare, they begin today, 24 hours after they were voted in.

But that means little to Brod.

“When they say you’re off and running, you’re off and running,” she said with a laugh.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Arthur Swenson on 02/22/2011 - 11:01 am.

    Why am I not surprised that the new Republican majority chose to fill all four U of M Regent positions with unemployed Republicans?

    Lets hope that at least one or two of them are able to put their party-line rhetoric aside in order to consider the long term needs of the University and its stake-holders.

  2. Submitted by Jeff Goldenberg on 02/22/2011 - 11:02 am.

    Elections matter. Case closed. Next.

  3. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 02/22/2011 - 11:44 am.

    I would like to hope both Steve Sviggum and Laura Brod could overcome a life-time of petty party politics, toeing the party line to the absolute letter, to help the most important institution in the state, but my hopes are not high. I mean Sviggum ran his caucus in the House like a pack of wolves, never allowing anyone out of step with the leadership. Swiggum was in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s “no new taxes” cabinet and helped lead this state to the mediocrity it enjoys today. Brod calls it the university a jewel – a funny term for something she and her fellow House Republicans kept trying to grind away on with belt sanders.

  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/22/2011 - 11:57 am.

    Yes, Jeff. And sometimes they are a call to rise in opposition to policies that hurt people and damage the state.

  5. Submitted by Howard Salute on 02/22/2011 - 12:34 pm.

    The process may not have been to your political liking, but both Steve Sviggum and Laura Brod are excellent choices. They will not hurt people or damage the state.

  6. Submitted by Ray Marshall on 02/22/2011 - 12:51 pm.

    RE: Fuming

    More evidence that the DFL really doesn’t believe in democracy because they believe that only they are the repository of truth.

  7. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 02/22/2011 - 01:29 pm.

    More foxes guarding the hen house.

  8. Submitted by Rod Loper on 02/22/2011 - 02:03 pm.

    The move to privatize higher education got a big
    boost yesterday.

  9. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 02/22/2011 - 06:59 pm.

    Howard, I hope your comment is tongue in cheek

    “both Steve Sviggum and Laura Brod are excellent choices. They will not hurt people or damage the state.”

    If not then you haven’t been paying attention to what Pawlenty and his crew did to our state.
    Allowing fat cats to get richer on the backs of the poor,
    taking health care away from the most vulnerable.
    If they bring forward these kind of Ideas to the University..
    Only the wealthy will be able to attend school there.

  10. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/23/2011 - 07:15 am.

    It should be offensive to everyone who draws a paycheck that democrat politicians believe that only unionists are “working people.”

  11. Submitted by Kathy Coulter on 02/23/2011 - 07:15 am.

    I’m “smiling slightly” and feeling “vaguely smug” myself. The hypocritical high dudgeon
    expressed both by those referenced in the article and by some commenters above is amusingly delicious. A new majority exercising their political clout. Huh. THAT never happened when the other side was in the majority….

  12. Submitted by Arthur Swenson on 02/23/2011 - 09:20 am.

    Remember the talk about developing the U of M into one of the TOP THREE research universities in the country?

    Sviggum, Brod, Pawlenty and company have spent the past decade frustrating that effort. Whatever would lead someone to think that they would change now?

    I can hardly wait to hear more about their vision for operating a great uni9versity on the cheap.

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