We, the undersigned members of both the University of Minnesota (UMN) community and the larger public who care about the direction of this public land grant university, are deeply concerned with the potential re-election of Regent Michael Hsu and election of Karen Schanfield to the UMN Board of Regents.
The Regents are, as a body, the 12 most powerful people at the university, even more powerful than administrators like President Joan Gabel. Over the last few years, we have seen this body act in ways that are increasingly harmful to the university. They have mismanaged the ongoing crisis of UMN Athletics; continually raised tuition and student fees; hijacked efforts to address sexual misconduct on campus to instead go after the right of students to protest; politicized scientific research and medical training; obstructed labor rights and good faith contract negotiations with unions representing thousands of frontline workers; and intervened poisonously in a sensitive university initiative, in the process attacking and maligning esteemed faculty and researchers.
Michael Hsu and Karen Schanfield will make things worse. They are poor choices for the job and will harm students, faculty, workers, and the communities UMN serves.
Who is Michael Hsu?
Michael Hsu began his term on the Board of Regents in 2015, representing the 6th Congressional District, and is seeking reappointment. An outspoken skeptic of the crisis of sexual misconduct, Hsu voted against the adoption of the U’s affirmative consent policy and attempted to block the hiring of Provost Rachel Croson without further details on how she handled a confidential Title IX case. In the Rename Reclaim debate, Regent Hsu distorted the historical record to obscure the University’s history of discrimination, and defended racist former administrators like Lotus Coffman. He then accused the University’s own professors and students of academic dishonesty when they did not reach his conclusions, called for them to be investigated, and tried to run away from protesters when the acting Board chair asked police to forcibly remove Dr. John Wright during a Board meeting. Regent Hsu has also made himself out to be an athletics reformer. In reality, he has ignored accusations of a toxic workplace culture throughout athletics, including in the football program; has supported disproportionate cuts to women’s athletics; and led an attempt to restart the football season despite concerns about player exposure to COVID-19.
During his time on the Board, Michael Hsu has cultivated an image of himself as a tough-talking independent who is trying to hold the university accountable. But as the last 6 years show, instead of helping to address critical issues and crises at the university, he has repeatedly poisoned and wrecked efforts to address these problems. While he portrays himself as a champion for students, years of deception lead us to distrust his rhetoric.
Who is Karen Schanfield?
Karen Schanfield is a first-time Board of Regents candidate for the 4th Congressional District, and is a well-connected attorney at Fredrikson and Byron. An alumna of and former instructor for the University of Minnesota Law School, Schanfield presents herself as a proud Minnesota Gopher who wants to give back by serving as a regent. But Schanfield played a central role in busting the most recent faculty unionization campaign in 2014–2018, and during the unionization process treated contingent faculty with profound disrespect. She went through their resumés line-by-line, questioning the credentials of some of the most decorated and dedicated teaching faculty, and argued that they should not be in the same unit as tenure-line faculty because their teaching was less important than research at UMN. Working class students access this public university through its teaching mission, and someone who disdains that mission should not be a regent. In her motions against the unionization effort, Schanfield also elevated the Twin Cities faculty as the only “real” faculty shaping the university’s reputation, as opposed to other campuses’ faculty—another instance of her effort to divide and denigrate members of the university community.
What Do We Want?
We want regents who are anti-racist and committed to addressing the sexual violence that takes place on our campuses. We want regents who will support their workforce, respect the rights of students and faculty to unionize, and defend collective bargaining and fair contracts with AFSCME, Teamsters, and UEA Duluth/Crookston. We want regents who are responsive to the needs of students and the demands of their movements. We want regents who aspire to a university that is accessible to all, a truly public good. Michael Hsu and Karen Schanfield do not fit that description.