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Open meeting law hinders hiring, University of Minnesota president says

President Eric Kaler of the University of Minnesota says on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, that the school seeks $1.3 billion in state money for the next two years. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said Thursday, Dec. 6, that the state’s open meeting law puts the Board of Regents at “a real disadvantage” when hiring a new president.

The board on Wednesday chose University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel as its lone finalist to succeed Kaler. She’ll interview with the board Dec. 14.

Gabel advanced largely because the other two unnamed semifinalists — one a university president, the other a provost — refused to go forward unless they were going to be the lone finalist.

Kaler’s competitors made the same choice before he was hired as the lone finalist in 2010.

“It is true that being a public candidate does make the application process less attractive. That’s just human nature,” Kaler said Thursday.

Just three of the 12 regents were able to interview the three semifinalists because state law prevents the full board from meeting in private. Regent Richard Beeson wants that law changed.

“I think that parts of the open meeting law statute simply do not work for the hiring of this position. It’s been a source of frustration for decades,” Beeson said Wednesday.

“We can’t expect people who are in the most critical stages of their career to necessarily be willing to interview in a multiple-candidate format.”