Rushed votes irk regents

Tight deadlines occasionally delay when the board gets information.
October 10, 2013

The University of Minnesota’s main governing body sometimes makes significant decisions quickly.

When the University’s Board of Regents meet for the second time this semester on Thursday and Friday, they’ll vote on the nearly $300 million 2014 capital request for construction projects around the University’s system, a report they have been reviewing for more than a month.

However, regents aren’t always given as much time to look over reports they’re voting on and are forced to make quick decisions.

At the September meeting, regents were rushed to approve a dramatic cost-cutting plan for the University because of a fast-approaching deadline from the state Legislature.

The regents had less than an hour to review and vote on a plan to cut administrative costs at the University.

At the September board meeting, Regent John Frobenius criticized how the regents don’t always have adequate time to question reports. He said the hasty decisions could potentially have negative effects on University.

“I’m not sure which of this packet of stuff — that was just thrown on my desk — I’m being asked to approve,” Frobenius said at the meeting.

The packet was a detailed, 32-page report based on recommendations from Huron Consulting Group, outlining ways to improve the University’s spending in the coming years.

“If you’re being asked to make significant decisions of real [importance] and you’re not given an appropriate amount of time to really study the document … that can become somewhat dangerous,” Regent David Larson said.

The board usually receives reports a month before it votes on them, as with the upcoming meetings. This allows regents enough time to review proposals thoroughly and ask questions. Regents said the push to approve the September report was a rare occasion and unavoidable.

With a University of this size, “it’s bound to happen,” Regent Clyde Allen said.

The Legislature’s deadlines aren’t created by the University, and regents said they are forced to abide — which may mean forgoing the time it takes to thoroughly examine the reports.

Last session, state legislators criticized the University’s administrative spending and asked the University to submit reports on its budget management more frequently throughout the year. September’s deadline directly followed the regents’ board meeting.

Larson wasn’t at the meeting, but he said the Legislature sometimes makes requests that make the regents’ jobs harder.

“Anytime you’ve got people trying to intervene into the affairs of the University and not [giving] us sufficient time to respond appropriately, it can be very distracting,” he said.

Beeson said last month’s fast voting process was unusual and the regents are usually given sufficient time to look over materials before voting.

Still, regents agreed there is room for improvement in the reviewing process.

“This idea of just throwing bunches of paper at the Board at the last minute and then saying ‘approve it’ is something that needs to be thought through just a little bit,” Frobenius said at the meeting. “We can and should do better than that.”

Comment Policy

The Minnesota Daily welcomes thoughtful discussion on all of our stories, but please keep comments civil and on-topic. Read our full guidelines here.
Minnesota Daily Serving the University of Minnesota Community since 1900