UW faculty voices opinions in survey before Inslee appoints regents

Gov. Jay Inslee will soon select or reappoint two regents to occupy the seats of board of regents’ whose terms have expired. While those appointments lay in temporary limbo, the UW faculty weighed in on what they think a regent should prioritize.

It is unknown at this point when Inslee will make his decision.

Currently, the two expired positions are UW graduates Joanne Harrell’s and Orin Smith’s. Their contracts — all of which last four years — expired in September. 

Via The Daily

Harrell is a senior director for U.S. citizenship and public affairs at Microsoft. Before working at Microsoft, Harrell’s work encompassed executive-level operational and strategy roles within the high-tech, telecommunications, and non profit sectors.

Smith serves on the Walt Disney Company board of directors, and has been lead director for the last four years. Before Smith’s retirement, he was a chief operating officer and president at Starbucks from 2000 to 2005.

The UW’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the UW Faculty Forward co-sponsored an online survey, distributed in August to all directory-listed faculty. The survey asked what faculty members would like to see in the regents. 

The online questionnaire discovered 90% of more than 600 UW faculty respondents believe Inslee’s top priority when choosing regents should be based on their advocacy for public higher education funding.

Moreover, 86% of those respondents think a regent should have a record of integrity and civic virtue. 

When it comes to the presidential search, 76% agreed regents need to be committed to an open and inclusive process. This desire may stem from issues that occurred in 2003 and 2004, when AAUP and ASUW asked for an open presidential search, and it was rejected.

Those issues resonate in the presidential search today. During one of four presidential search forums held at the end of last year, Estella Leopold, a professor emeritus of biology, said one of the most important things to know is whether the search will be open or closed, confidential or transparent. This remains undecided. 

Diane Morrison, a professor in the School of Social Work, was pleased to see other faculty agreed with what qualities she thinks makes a great regent.

“The faculty thinks of the university as a public good rather than a business, and so they’d like to see more of the regents who are coming from a perspective of public services,” Morrison said. 

It appears both faculty and students are concerned about regents’ inclinations toward finance and industry. Currently, eight out of 10 regents have a background in business, according to the survey.

Junior Nathan Woodruff said the board of regents’ decisions affect more than just the UW campus, but also the surrounding areas.

“The board has very little restraint when it comes to development plans,” Woodruff said. “As the university writes itself checks for entry into the housing market, and builds $100 million dorms, landlords in the U-District wait in awe as the university sets a price floor by letting the cost of living on campus soar past $1,000 a month for a cramped dorm room.”

Currently, the lowest, housing-only (not including dining) cost for a dorm at the UW is a North Campus double for $1,927 a quarter, or about $650 a month. The highest is a two bedroom apartment in Mercer Court at $3,666, or about $1,222 a month. 

Woodruff sees the demolishing and rebuilding of North and West Campus, new labs and new facilities as primary drivers behind increasing local housing costs, calling them “extravagant and unnecessary renovations.”

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