- Steve Sviggum, vice chair of the University of Minnesota's board of regents, gave up his leadership position Tuesday, less than two weeks after he questioned if the system's Morris campus had become "too diverse."
- While Sviggum will no longer serve as vice chair, he will stay on the board for the remainder of his term, which ends in 2023.
- His comments at the board’s meeting Oct. 13 drew immediate backlash. Former Minnesota regent Michael Hsu called for Sviggum's resignation from the board, as did Teamsters Local 320, a union that represents 1,500 service workers across the system.
Sviggum issued an apology Oct. 18, saying that while he didn't mean to cause harm, his intent doesn't matter.
"I clearly have more to learn to better understand the strength that diversity brings to our institution," he said. "I am willing to learn and I must do better — and I will."
Sviggum is a former Republican speaker of the Minnesota State House of Representatives. He initially asked if the Morris campus growing too diverse had driven down its enrollment, citing letters from friends whose children opted not to attend because of the diversity of its student body, according to the Star Tribune.
The University of Minnesota Morris enrolled 1,286 students in fall 2021. Of those students, 56.3% were White, 28% were Native American, 4% were Hispanic, 3.3% were Black and African American, 2.3% were Asian, and 0.2% were Hawaiian, according to the university.
Sviggum officially surrendered his vice chair position in a letter to Board Chair Ken Powell Tuesday.
"I owe that position to my colleagues who have shown disapproval in my actions," Sviggum wrote. "The success of the University of Minnesota is the most important focus and is much more important than any one person or position."
Teamsters Local 320, the union, dismissed Sviggum leaving the vice chair role as insufficient and called for him to resign the board entirely.
Through a board spokesperson, Powell referred requests for comment to his initial Oct. 19 statement on Sviggum's line of questioning.
"We all bear responsibility for speaking up and condemning the question, whether on Thursday or in our Friday meeting," that statement said. "As the leader of our board, I should have done better and I am not proud of my inaction."
Powell also committed to providing diversity, equity and inclusion training to the board, saying its members recognize they need to acknowledge their shortcomings and learn from them.
Sviggum did not immediately respond for comment Wednesday.