Why the House chairman says regents are a House of Lords

I asked House higher-education chairman Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) to comment on the statements that former Republican governor Arne Carlson has made about the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

Carlson essentially says that the legislature needs to choose better regents, who are responsible for the tuition and debt levels at the U. He says they need to be chosen more on the basis of competence than skill.

Pelowski told me he generally agrees with Carlson, and that he equates the Board of Regents with the House of Lords, "where you get a title, a robe, and a nice place to meet."

He said:

"They got very comfortable in a position where you were wined and dined, and you didn't have to make a tough decision if you didn't want to. And you could always raise tuition. Well, we're calling them on it now. You don't just get to raise tuition. We'll guide you in tuition from now on. And we also want to see this debt problem taken care of."

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He says the regents "weren't in charge when they needed to be in charge" in matters such as tuition. Instead, he says, they've delegated the responsibility to U officials such as the president, and did not override him when it counted.

Pelowski has complained in previous years that U officials haven't fought hard for their institution during proposed budget cuts. He says that's his main peeve with the regents:

"Historic cuts to the University of Minnesota on a repetitive basis. Not one complaint. Not one -- that 'this is bad,' that 'there's a harm,' that 'we should do something about this.' Not one. I would have thought they would have been here and pummeled us, not just in committee but also publicly. They'd better start paying attention."

I'll be calling some regents to get some reaction. I hope to have more by tomorrow. Earlier this morning, regent Richard Beeson commented on former governor Carlson's opinion piece:

"Look for corrections to this mistake-laden and uninformed editorial."