The Rightward Creep of the Board of Regents (And How You Can Fight Back)

The Rightward Creep of the Board of Regents (And How You Can Fight Back)

By Joey Daniewicz, Staff Writer Originally published in Issue 8, Volume 33 of The University Register on February 26, 2021

Especially for a group with such material influence over their lives, the University’s Board of Regents likely seldom enters the mind of the typical Morris campus student. It’s the leading governing body of the University, with President Joan Gabel serving entirely at their pleasure. From afar, the body seems shadowy, and up close, it’s heavily corporate, its members safely guarded from the Regents office from any unwanted interaction with the communities who are impacted by their decisions. Well, if you work on campus and feel you don’t get paid enough, this crew is to blame. (Notably, students at the Minneapolis campus don’t even make Minneapolis’ minimum wage.)

In my capacities as the Morris campus’ Student Representative to the Board of Regents and as the student member of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC), I’ve observed a rightward lurch in the Regents’ membership. Despite some early interviews with and recommendations from the RCAC, the Regents are elected by a joint session of the state legislature. Among the worse developments of the past few years was the student Regent at the time, Abdul Omari, losing his bid for a full spot because moderate Democrats, particularly in the Senate (think Bakk and Tomassoni).

Image on top courtesy of regents.umn.edu

But the worst successful Regent elections are worse than the most painful near-misses. Darrin Rosha has consistently been a pernicious and unprofessional conversative voice on the Board, his history dire enough that in 2015, the RCAC deigned to not even award him an interview. However, the conservative state legislature had other ideas and rammed him through anyway. 2018 saw the election of Randy Simonson to the Board, and Simonson has consistently used his position to peddle forward his anti-abortion agenda, doing real damage to the University’s ability to do vital research.

Simonson is up for reelection this year, as is Michael Hsu. During one of his first meetings, Michael Hsu jumped out of order to delay an affirmative consent standard, and has since shown himself to be an opponent to anti-sexual assault activists, perhaps most horrifically in his attempt to block the hiring of Provost Rachel Croson because he wanted details about a sexual assault case that was confidential under Title IX. When the Gophers football team boycotted their practices in solidarity with teammates who had been suspended for sexual assault, they demanded a meeting with Regents Rosha and Hsu.

A potential new face to add to this Mount Rushmore could be Congressional District 4’s Karen Schanfield, a key foil to a recent faculty unionization effort. She went line by line through faculty resumés and suggested to individuals that they didn’t deserve to be considered equal to some of their more well-earning peers. One of the most pressing issues currently facing the University is its employees’ abilities to collectively bargain, and to have such a vocal opponent of this on the Board would make the outlook for that seem even more dire than it already is.

Luckily, you (yes, you!) can do something about this! You can visit sites.google.com/view/umnregentspetition to read about Hsu and Schanfield, and you can sign on as an individual or even get your organization to sign on to publicly oppose the election of Hsu and Schanfield to the Board of Regents.