U of M Regent Sviggum resigns as vice chair after ‘too diverse’ question, will finish board term

The University of Minnesota regent who asked if declining enrollment at the system’s Morris campus was due to having “too much diversity” has stepped down from his position on the board but will finish his term.

Tuesday, Steve Sviggum sent a letter to U of M Board of Regents Chairman Ken Powell announcing his decision.

“After our meeting on Saturday morning, I have come to the realization that I should resign from the Vice Chairmanship effective immediately. I owe that position to my colleagues who have shown disapproval in my actions,” Sviggum’s letter said, in part.

Earlier this month, Sviggum, the vice chairman of the board, asked Morris Interim Chancellor Janet Schrunk Ericksen, “Is it possible that at Morris we’ve become too diverse? Is that at all possible from a marketing standpoint?”

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.

He apologized the following week, saying his intention “was to foster discussion around the consistently declining enrollment at Morris” but adding that “my intent does not matter.”

Powell also apologized, saying, “We all bear responsibility for speaking up and condemning the question,” Powell said in a written statement. “As the leader of our board, I should have done better and I am not proud of my inaction.”

While Sviggum won’t be vice chair of the board any more, he noted in his letter to Powell that he intends to serve on the board until his term is finished next year.

Sviggum was elected to the board in 2011 and 2017. Previously, he’s also served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the commissioner of the Department of Management and Budget and as an adjunct professor and legislative fellow at the U of M’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.