MPIRG, like many in the education community, was shocked to learn of University of Minnesota Board Regent Steve Sviggum’s new job as communications and executive assistance for the Senate Republican Caucus. It is hard to imagine two more conflicted roles, and easy to imagine the consequences to education funding in our state.
A critical piece of the Regent’s position and work centers around State funding for higher education, and with this year’s bonding bill, all the more important. The U is preparing for a long advocacy battle for education funding in this year’s bonding bill with as Governor Dayton’s first proposed release - over a hundred million less than the U’s request. In stark contrast to the U’s hopes, last session the Republican Party fought to cut higher ed funding by as much as 19%.
Soon after the announcement, it was disclosed that Sviggum had not shared his prospective job with the University, increasing concern that he was aware of how controversial his new role would be to the commitment he has made serving as a Regent. Because of the partisan nature of his new position, it is hard to reconcile how he can execute the Regents mission while fulfilling his new role with the Republican Party without violating his Regent duties.
The Minnesota Daily reported the concern of partisanship and called for ‘public criticism’ to remind and warn Regents to ‘act diligently to guard against partisan influence’ in THIS editorial. The Star Tribune echoed these sentiments in their editorial Conflict is clear in Sviggum’s two roles.
MPIRG calls on Mr. Sviggum to chose his side in the higher education battle. Both the Board of Regents and Senate Republican Caucus need to hold him accountable if he is unwilling to do so himself. Until Sviggum chooses his side, neither can be confident he is fit to serve in either capacity.
Written by Dakotah Johnson, MPIRG Campus Organizer
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