Controversy Swirls Around MnSCU Trustee Appointment

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A controversy regarding the appointment of a new student representative to the Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is resulting in strong criticism of a candidate reportedly favored for consideration by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The candidate, Luke Hellier, is a graduate of St. John’s University, a private college in Collegeville. He has not attended a MnSCU school previously, though he is enrolled part time in Minnesota State University’s master’s of public administration program starting in the fall.

Hellier’s primary qualification appears to be his political connections. According to research by local blogger and former Minnesota State University Student Association chairman Hal Kimball, Hellier served as political director for the campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in 2006. He also interned with Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and served as vice chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans in 2006.
Hellier was not one of the candidates initially recommended to the position by the Minnesota State University Student Association. The group recommended that Pawlenty appoint either Ezra Kazee, a student at Winona State University, or Adam Weigold, a student at Metropolitan State University.

Kimball described Kazee as “highly qualified for a position on the board,” and noted Weigold’s work with the College Republicans before saying, “he is a student-oriented leader and would serve our students well.”

The MSUSA declined to attack Pawlenty for considering someone outside those recommended. In response to questions by Minnesota Monitor, MSUSA Communications Director Shannah Moore said, “At this point, the decision over whom to appoint to the position is in the governor’s hands, and we are awaiting that decision before talking further about the individual appointed.” But a number of local bloggers took the governor to task.

“The fact that Luke never even approached MSUSA for a recommendation, I believe, raises questions about his motivation in seeking this position,” said D.J. Danielson, writing in Minnesota Campaign Report. “Maybe he couldn’t attend that particular MSUSA conference that weekend in March? A conference call could have been arranged, which actually did occur for another candidate.”

And blogger Spot at The Cucking Stool noted that he “thinks the guv wants to give him a platform to ‘foster conservative thought,’ so to speak. What do you bet Hellier winds up as an operative for…whomever runs against Walz?”