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Editorial: Imbalance on the Board of Regents

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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According to a Daily Iowan article published on Wednesday, Regent and University of Iowa alumnus Robert Downer has reached the end of his term. Along with Downer, Regent Hannah Walsh — a UI student representative — will also end her term on the board.

With the departure of Downer and Walsh, the state Board of Regents will be losing two members with the closest ties to Iowa City and the UI.

In the reflection piece published by the DI, Downer said, “I always say that I’m neutral except for four hours every fall.” Of course, Downer was referring to the Iowa-Iowa State football game.
Jokes aside, however, Downer’s comments may come as a relief to some who view his departure as a step back for the UI.

Conversely, many have reason to be concerned.

Despite most regents trying to remain unbiased in their thoughts about given isues, it is human nature and the nature of politics that this is not always the case. The loss of two individuals with strong ties to the UI could very well prove detrimental to the university. Because Gov. Terry Branstad’s nominated new regents were approved earlier this month, there will be no Iowa City residents on the board.

What makes this whole scenario worse, however, is the introduction of the new funding proposal that would base 60 percent of funding on in-state undergraduate student enrollment.

According to the latest regents’ statistics, the UI is the institution with the highest degree of state funding — an honor that the school and its students do not take lightly.

But with 54 percent of the undergraduate population at the UI considered residents, it has the lowest percentage of resident students of the three major universities. The university would be faced with the complications associated with losing this funding and that, argues Walsh, is problematic.

Walsh, after voting in favor of the funding proposal last year, has since come to regret her decision, poignantly saying, “We cannot tear down one university to build up two.”

She elaborated, admitting that as a regent, one tries hard to represent all students regardless of university. But the simple fact of the matter is that it’s nearly impossible to do so.

Furthermore, there will be only one registered Democrat on the board — further increasing the potential for one-sided votes.

The DI Editorial Board believes the choices of the governor will likely do great things for the regents and for the state. However, the new members and the rest of the regents will have to be extremely cautious in their decisions to ensure that all state universities are represented equally.

We fear that without a member of the Iowa City community on the board, biased proposals may be passed, and the UI may feel the brunt of these issues.


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