Our view: Rochester needs a voice on ‘U’ regents board

May 17, 2019 GMT

Take a look at the photos of members of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents on the official website and you’ll see that the board has been overwhelmingly made up of white males.

So we applaud the Minnesota Legislature’s action last week in naming three women, one of them Asian, and an African-American student to fill positions on the board.

It’s time that the board more accurately resembles not only the diversity of the state’s population, but also that of the students the university is trying to recruit.

“We’re dealing with changing demographics in our state, changing needs for workforce, working with the other colleges and systems,” said newly appointed Regent Janie Mayeron, of Minneapolis. To appreciate the demands those changes will put on the university, the Board of Regents needs to reflect as many viewpoints as possible.


Along with Mayeron, the new members of the board selected by the Legislature are Mike Kenyanya, a student representative from the University of Minnesota-Duluth; Kao Ly Her, of Maplewood; and Mary Davenport, of Mankato.

For southeastern Minnesota, Davenport will have to suffice as our quasi-representative on the board. She is the former interim president of Rochester Community & Technical College, and in that capacity gained an understanding of the higher education needs of this region.

But it is bothersome that Rochester, home to the state’s largest private employer (Mayo Clinic) does not have a representative on the governing board of the state’s largest institution of higher education.

From 1991 until 2018, when Dr. Patricia Simmons left the 12-member board, Rochester and Mayo had a seat at the table. It looked like that would continue after Simmons resigned, but the Legislature opted to pass over the recommended candidate from Rochester and select Randy Simonson, from Worthington.

The relationship between Mayo, which has highly respected education programs of its own, and the ‘U’ should be recognized as key to the future success of both the university and the state.

Plus, the still-young campus of the University of Minnesota Rochester deserves attention from, and representation on, the Board of Regents.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, no one from Rochester applied for a seat on the board of regents in the latest selection process.

That needs to change in the future. Yes, Mayo is probably strong enough to go it alone. But potential cooperation between Mayo and the ‘U’ would be for the betterment of the entire state and region.

The next round of regents appointments should include at least one candidate from Rochester for the Legislature’s consideration.