Candidates for faculty regent hold forum

Joe Lord

The two candidates for faculty regent answered questions from members of their potential constituency during an hour-long forum yesterday in Garrett Center.

Robert Dietle and Betsy Shoenfelt gave opening remarks and answered questions about subjects ranging from insurance to athletics. The forum – attended by about 20 faculty members – was moderated by University Senate vice-chairman Doug Smith.

The candidates agreed on some issues, like ensuring academics are a university priority, but didn’t see eye-to-eye on others, including dealing with administrators and other members of the Board of Regents.

Dietle said he will take an aggressive stance on the board, if elected, and would be steadfast in defending the faculty’s position.

Shoenfelt said she prefers to build a consensus with other board members and would be more open to compromise.

The nominees agreed when addressing the athletics department’s role on the Hill.

Shoenfelt said while athletics is an important part of the college experience for students, academic programs should be the university’s top priority.

“About a year-and-a-half ago, Wood Selig came to talk to the University Senate and made a plea that athletics be treated like the rest of the university,” Dietle said. “If I would be able to respond to that, I would say I wish academics would be treated like athletics.”

He said athletics are commonly favored by the administration when the university’s budget is outlined yearly.

The nominees were also asked by forum attendees about a potential rise in faculty and staff insurance premiums next year.

Shoenfelt said she’d like the university to explore creating more tiers of insurance coverage for faculty and staff to choose from.

“It may be that we need to again create more variety so that people who want more elaborate insurance can pay themselves for that insurance, and have more of a bare-bones policy for those who can’t afford it,” she said.

Dietle said employees have worked hard in recent years to achieve acceptable insurance premiums and should not settle with the increased rates next year. He said faculty and staff face as much as a 30 percent increase next year.

“My position is that the university is going to have to do something to help carry that burden,” he said.

Shoenfelt said she would keep in close contact with faculty if elected regent.

Computer science professor Uta Ziegler, who attended last night’s forum, said the event provided her with some insight about the candidates. But, she said, she did not know who she will vote for.

“I came here because I wanted to get information,” Ziegler said.

Ballots can be cast by faculty members from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow. Faculty members who are assistant professors and above are eligible to vote. They can pick up ballots at the dean’s office of their college.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]