If the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents has concerns regarding the objectivity and content of the report by the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History, it is the Board’s responsibility to collect more information and deliberate on the best path forward.
It is unfair to assert that the concerns voiced during a recent meeting represent an off-handed dismissal rather than an earnest assessment. Indeed, the board is well within its fiduciary duty to ask why the relatives of the deceased were not asked to comment, or why certain evidence — for example, notes showing that segregated dorms were the preferred policy of the Board of Regents in 1935 — was not given proper consideration.
The Daily’s editorial states the questions raised by the board “[disregard] a majority of faculty, staff and graduate student desires” to have the buildings renamed. Faculty, staff and graduate students voted to have the buildings renamed by 81 percent, 53 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Faculty, the group most in favor of renaming, wrote the report. The Editorial Board neglected to mention that only 26 percent of alumni and 38 percent of undergraduate students voted to rename. And Minnesota taxpayers, who finance the University of Minnesota, have not had their views consulted or represented in any form.
Trustees, as the word suggests, are entrusted with safeguarding a university’s values. They are stewards of their institutions and foremost are called to act with the university’s educational mission. A necessary aspect of that stewardship is weighing the competing demands of various stakeholders in the University community, whether they be students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors or taxpayers. The role of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents is not to rubber-stamp the task force’s report, but to carefully consider an appropriate response.
Erik Gross is a communications program associate at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization promoting affordability and accountability in higher education.