The DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature has chosen three new University of Minnesota Regents, ahead of a meeting later this week when the board will review candidates to lead the school on an interim basis following the departure of current president Joan Gabel.
West St. Paul City Council Member Robyn Gulley is joining the 12-member panel that governs the U along with former Allina Health CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler and Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. All would serve six-year terms.
After Monday’s vote, Turner said as a labor representative, she hopes the school will avoid difficult contract negotiations with employee unions. Last fall, U service workers reached a contract agreement and narrowly averted a strike.
"There's no reason for the workers to have to come close to striking. I've been a part of my own negotiations and that's just not necessary."
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Gulley says she wants to improve pay and job security for non-tenured faculty and make tuition affordable.
"I really think we need to take a deep look at that and see how that impacts not only the workers, but the students and do the work that we can to lift the conditions for the students and for all the workers on campus," Gulley said.
Wheeler said she hopes to bring positive change for students and prioritize their safety and wellbeing, as the regents prepare to pick an interim president and begin the search for Gabel’s permanent successor. “You look for somebody who has a track record that focuses on that.”
She also said she “has a thousand questions to ask” about the plan for expanding the medical campus.
Lawmakers also re-appointed Regent Tadd Johnson, who became the first Native American regent last July. Johnson, a former professor, tribal attorney and tribal court judge, is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. Before his appointment, Johnson retired from his position as the U’s first senior director of American Indian Tribal Nations relations.
The new members join as the board prepares to select an interim leader ahead of Gabel's departure to assume the role of chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh this summer. The board has called a special meeting for Thursday at which it is expected to select finalists for the interim position and begin the process for hiring the U’s next president.