In response to a racially offensive remark he made in October, Regent Steve Sviggum is being called upon to resign by the student body president at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
Dylan Young, president of the Morris Campus Student Association, accused Sviggum of not taking seriously the University of Minnesota’s fundamental principle that tries to increase diversity in its enrolment in an open letter published on Wednesday.
“Regent Steve Sviggum accepted my offer to visit the Morris campus last month, and we shared lunch there. In his open letter, Young writes, “My friends who joined us described his behavior as defensive, honest, and resentful. “A word I would use is unserious: Regent Sviggum demonstrated that he is not genuinely prepared to deepen his commitment to the essential ideals of fairness and diversity at the University of Minnesota.
After inquiring if the Morris campus had grown “too diverse” during a Board of Regents meeting in October, Sviggum faced criticism from the University of Minnesota system. The remarks were made during a debate on the dwindling attendance at the western Minnesota school.
Sviggum explained to the board that he had received letters from potential students indicating that they would feel uneasy visiting the Morris campus in part because of the levels of diversity. 37.6% of students are Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Native American, according to enrollment data.
Young asserts that Sviggum reiterated his defense that he must ask questions, even if they’re unfavorable ones, throughout their lunch together. Sviggum, according to Young, should “refrain from laying targets on the backs of BIPOC kids,” he claims.
He sought to defend himself rather than recognize his error, according to Young.
Hal Johnson, the Morris student representative to the board of regents, who had lunch with Sviggum as well, shared Young’s opinion.
“Regent Sviggum didn’t appear to be processing anything we said to him at that meeting.” In a statement released simultaneously with Young’s letter, Johnson said that Young had the chance to either openly apologize for his errors or learn from them.
Sviggum announced his retirement as vice chair of the Board of Regents about a week and a half after challenging Morris’ diversity levels. He said that he will stay on until the end of his tenure, which is in 2023.
However, Sviggum’s immediate resignation isn’t just being demanded by the student association. Young and Johnson were joined on the call by 28 other student leaders from throughout the University of Minnesota, who signed a statement that was sent directly to Sviggum. Teamsters Local 320, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Group, as well as a number of other groups, are there with the student leaders.
Sviggum, a former speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives and a resident of Kenyon, is a Republican. Any midterm resignations must be filled by legislative or gubernatorial appointments, according to Minnesota law.