University of Minnesota Regents approve beer and wine sales, and finalize administrative leave policies, a U-wide tech upgrade and new staff appointments

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Beginning this fall, University of Minnesota fans will be able to purchase beer and wine at Gopher sporting events.

In Wednesday’s much-anticipated decision, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved the sale of alcoholic beverages in designated areas at TCF Bank Stadium, Williams Arena and Mariucci Arena.

President Eric Kaler called the implementation of the new policy a “pilot program and an ongoing process,” and said it will be assessed after every game.

The resolution passed with only one dissenting vote despite concerns expressed by several board members.

 “The public is watching this issue, and they’re watching us,” said Regent Dean Johnson. “I think it’s worth a try as we move forward, but it’s an experiment and it’s caused some consternation to at least one board member.”

Increased scholarship funds

Following President Kaler’s first year in office, the board proposed to give him a 3 percent salary increase. The raise would demonstrate “the confidence the board has in his leadership,” Cohen said.

Kaler expressed appreciation for the proposal, but refused the increase. Instead, he said he wanted the funds to be directed toward undergraduate scholarships, an announcement that drew applause from board members.

“That is certainly a wonderful gesture,” Cohen said.

The board passed a motion to contribute funds totaling 3 percent of the president’s 2012-2013 salary to a general University fund for undergraduate scholarships in the upcoming academic year.

 ‘Transparency and accountability’

At the meeting, the board also finalized changes to administrative leave policies.

Following former President Bruininks’ controversial approval of over $2 million in administrative leave packages, an ad hoc committee presented recommendations to the board last month.

Pay increases beyond what is allotted in the annual budget must now be approved by the board’s chair and vice chair, and administrators are no longer eligible for administrative leave packages.

Chair Linda Cohen said the changes will bring greater transparency and accountability, and said she was “very proud” of the work done on the issue.

New administrators

A number of recent administrative appointments were finalized, including Pam Wheelock as Vice President for University Services, Fred E. Wood as Chancellor of the Crookston campus and Brian Steeves as the board’s new executive director and corporate secretary.

Steeves served as acting executive director following Ann Cieslak’s retirement after thirteen years in the position. He was officially invited to fill the role by Chair Linda Cohen.

Several regents expressed support for the new appointment.

“The thing that has struck me most about Mr. Steeves…is his ability to anticipate – anticipate what’s around the corner and communicate that to the board,” Regent Johnson said.

Looking to the future

The board also approved an $83 million technology upgrade project presented to the Finance and Operations Committee.

The project would provide a comprehensive upgrade to the University’s Enterprise System (ERP), and is meant to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The system serves a variety of functions in areas including admissions, registration, financial aid, payroll and the University’s overall budget.

Committee members agreed the need for the project is urgent — the U’s current operating system will no longer be supported as of December 2012. The University has negotiated support through 2014, after which it will lose the ability to administer federal financial aid and receive updates using the current system.

“To remain an effective, state-of-the-art university we must invest in our technology infrastructure,” said President Eric Kaler, citing the University’s ongoing mission of operational excellence.