A big task may lie ahead

One of the Legislature's biennial mini-dramas commences today with a joint meeting of the House and Senate's higher education finance committees. It's time to elect four members of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents. The joint committee's charge is to recommend candidates to a joint convention of the Legislature next month.

A former regent, who asked not to be named, noted that it's likely that the next board will likely shoulder the biggest responsibility a governing board faces -- the hiring of a new CEO. President Robert Bruininks, 67, has not announced a retirement date, but he's believed to be past the midpoint of his tenure at the university's helm.

"Look for regents who have experience governing complex institutions, and know something about hiring executives," my source said. "And look for people who are capable of serving as chair of the board." During a presidential transition, the regents' chair plays a prominent role. He or she need to be capable of inspiring public trust, especially if an initial search goes awry.

Those ideas triggered memories of the advice once given by one of the university's most respected regents, former Gov. Elmer Andersen. He said regents should approach their governing task with the goal not of managing the university, but nurturing it. Legislators might ask regents' candidates whether they agree, and whether they understand the difference.



The folks at home tuned in

With world cinema an increasingly important component of Hollywood's cultural and commercial model, it was Oscar's night to go global. In awards large and small, it was a small world, after all: A British director, Danny Boyle, and an Indian cast were the essential international ingredients for "Slumdog Millionaire," which won Best Picture and seven other Oscars.

But did the night when Bollywood met Hollywood -- and all points in-between -- play in Peoria? Yes. And in all-American cities in between, in just the latest indication of America's melting pot gone gorgeous mosaic. Preliminary Nielsen estimates indicate that 36.3 million Americans watched, which is a 13 percent increase over last year's Academy Awards (the lowest-rated ever).