U of M Board of Regents vice chair apologizes for asking if campus is ‘too diverse’

University of Minnesota Board of Regents Vice Chair Steve Sviggum apologized Tuesday for asking if declining enrollment could be connected to having “too much diversity” on campus.

Sviggum posed the question to Janet Schrunk Ericksen, interim chancellor at the University of Minnesota-Morris, during a board meeting last Thursday.

RELATED: U of M Board of Regents vice-chair asks if ‘too much diversity’ leads to declining enrollment at Morris campus

Sviggum noted that enrollment at Morris had declined by more than 40% “over the past decade” and that was why he asked the question.

“I have received a couple letters — two, actually — from friends whose children are not going to go to Morris, because it is too diverse of a campus. They just didn’t feel comfortable there,” said Sviggum. “Is it all possible, in the specifics of Morris, that we’ve become too diverse for a student to attend? Again, I am on thin ice. I understand that. At 71 or 72 years old I say things that I would never even thought when I was 52.”

Regent Steve Sviggum’s full apology can be seen below:

“Last week, during University of Minnesota Morris Interim Chancellor Ericksen’s presentation on MPact 2025 enrollment goals at Morris, I posed a question regarding the diversity of the student body and whether that diversity was—in any way—linked to the recent enrollment challenges.

“Let me unequivocally apologize for my questions, and especially for the unintended hurt my questions may have caused. They were not intended to cause harm, but my intent does not matter. For those whom I have harmed or offended, and for all of those associated with our great university, I am truly sorry. I have only respect and admiration for any individual who seeks to better themselves through higher education, whether at Morris or at any of our wonderful campuses. Minnesota benefits from our many amazing students from all walks of life who make incredible contributions to our community, and their work strengthens the great state of Minnesota. I hope that all of our graduates elect to stay in Minnesota after graduation and work, every day, for the betterment of our state.

“My intent – recognizing that my words matter – was to foster discussion around the consistently declining enrollment at Morris, which is not a one-year trend or even a concern that has emerged out of the COVID pandemic. Rather, student enrollment has been declining for years (down 50% from its peak) and the future of this great campus depends on finding solutions to reverse that trend.

“I have been blessed throughout my life as a farmer to work with a diversity of people across our state and our nation from all backgrounds. As a layperson in my church, I have shared the joys and heartbreaks of so many of my fellow parishioners. And as a proud Regent, I have been given the incredible opportunity to help our institution, our president, and our students, staff, and faculty who set a very high bar for the rest of us.

“Again, I offer my sincerest apologies. I clearly have more to learn to better understand the strength that diversity brings to our institution, and I look forward to taking those who have reached out to me up on their offers to meet and to hear their perspectives and learn from them. I am willing to learn and I must do better—and I will.”