Minnesota Regent resigns leadership over diversity issue

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Minnesota House Speaker is stepping down as vice chairman of the University of Minnesota’s board of regents after his question about whether the Morris campus was “too diverse” drew criticism.

According to a statement from the University of Minnesota, Steve Sviggum has resigned from his leadership position but will remain on the board until the end of his term when the state legislature holds its election of regents during the 2023 session.

Sviggum, 71, has faced mounting pressure over comments he made nearly two weeks ago during a meeting of regents. Speaking about falling enrollments at the Morris campus, Sviggum asked incumbent Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen if the campus was “too diverse” from a marketing perspective.

Morris currently has 1,068 students enrolled. Of these, 41% are black.

Sviggum said after a meeting with chief executive Ken Powell over the weekend, he had come to the “realization” that he should step down as vice chairman immediately, according to the Star Tribune reported.

“I owe this position to my colleagues who have disapproved of my actions,” he wrote in a letter to Powell. “I do so humbly and thoughtfully, with the knowledge that the success of the University of Minnesota is the primary focus and is far more important than any single person or position.”

Regents James Farnsworth and Mike Kenyanya said it was the right move for Sviggum. Both said they had recently had discussions with others about Sviggum’s future as a board executive. The Morris Campus Student Association also asked Sviggum to step down as vice chair.

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