Today, at noon, both houses of the legislature will meet in joint session for selection of four the University of Minnesota Regents. The positions are the Student Regent, 5th Congressional District Regent, and two At-Large Regents. Since the positions are voted on by all 201 members of the legislature the ability to select is completely in the hands of the DFL party because they hold the majority with 107 votes of 53.23%. This should mean they should carry the day except there is some derision inside the DFL House Caucus who feel the candidates who have advanced are not diverse enough.
The only two questions about diversity being advanced based are on race and gender, but the one clearly lacking is age. In this case, we mean younger and not older because the best group of Regents are not those who remember their college days of yesteryear but rather those that can directly relate to the modern collegiate experience and the Student Regent as a hat tip to this idea is not enough.
Without each candidate bringing forward an Ancestry.com or 23 and Me DNA analysis, these candidates can only be accessed by their outward appearance or self-described race and gender. Following the joint Higher Education committees meeting Mike Kenyanya (African-American male) was recommended for the Student Seat and 5th District candidate Mary Davenport (Caucasian woman) finished strongly on the first-ballot and for the At-Large seats Janie Mayeron (Caucasian woman) passed out with a bare majority and both Kao Ly Ilean Her (Hmong woman) and Sandy Wiese (Caucasian woman) advanced without recommendation.
Waiting in the wings and hoping for a recall are incumbent Regents Peggy Lucas (Asian woman) and Adul Omari (Somali male).
If the committees had just advanced all of the Student Regent candidates to the At-Large seats then the diversity quotients of race, gender and age could have been manifested, but instead, they seemed to regionalize the two At-Large seats due to Metro and Greater MN.
People should remember the University of Minnesota is unique. It is the only entity with tendrils throughout the state with the University Extension Service, physical locations in five cities (Minneapolis, St Paul, Duluth, Morris, and Crookston), its own zip code in Minneapolis, and a standing police force, but no identity as a municipality.
We will be watching with great interest the factionalization of the DFL Caucuses in their votes on these candidates, with one thing clear this is a contest of one of the simplest issues in politics, basic math. The person’s who prevail are those who receive a simple majority 50% plus 1 or 101 votes.