Voters’ Guide: University of Nebraska Board of Regents

The Board (of Regents) supervises the general operations of the university, as well as controls and directs all expenditures. A corporation secretary provides governance advice and support to the Board, and is the official record keeper for the proceedings of the Board of Regents meetings. — from the board’s website

The League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha contacts candidates during each election cycle and invites them to participate in the print and online editions of the Voters’ Guide. Candidates provide their biographical information and their positions on selected issues. Candidates are aware in advance that the biographies and answers will be printed exactly as submitted without edits for content, spelling, punctuation or grammar.

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Candidates for University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 4

Larry Bradley (D):  http://www.bradleyforregent.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: Papio-Missouri Natural Resources District, District 3. 2016-current.  Past Public Office, dates held: Papio-Missouri NRD, District 3. 20082012.  Education: B.S. Biology ’97 (UNO), M.A. Biology ’01 (UNO), Ph.D. Geography ’10 (UNL), Minor in Geology, Minor in Native American Studies.  Technical High School.  Central Grade School, downtown Omaha.  Military experience: United States Army.  1982-1986.  Honorable Discharge.  E-4.  91R.  Army Achievement Medal.  Good Conduct Medal.  Norfolk, VA 1983-84.  Frankfurt, West Germany 1985-86.    Volunteer experience: Commander of Local Veterans Post, 2008-2015.  President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians-Father Flanagan Division, 2015-2017. Immigration Chair for AOH, 2018.  Youth sports coach for Catholic Youth League and YMCA (when my children were young).

Elizabeth O’Connor (D):  http://www.ElizabethForRegent.com.  Past Public Office, dates held: University of Nebraska Board of Regents, UNO student representative 2011-2012;  University of Nebraska Board of Regents, Executive Committee member  2011-2012.  Education: University of Nebraska Omaha, Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Summa Cum Laude 2012;  University of Notre Dame Law School, Juris Doctor, 2015.  Volunteer experience: Executive board member of the Friends of Nebraska Children;  Mentor to the University of Nebraska at Omaha Underserved Law Opportunity Program (ULOP).

University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 4, Candidates’ Responses

What role does the First Amendment have on college campuses?

Larry Bradley:  Pro Academic Freedom and Pro Science is one of my platform issues.  I have studied, researched, lectured, and taught at the collegiate level in Nebraska for three decades now.  I have personally experienced barriers for my original contribution to science.  As long as any person or group does not seek to incite hatred, riots, or violence on our beautiful and peaceful campuses, then it is our civic duty to allow civil discourse so that we may attain common ground on critical issues.

Elizabeth O’Connor: Freedom of speech should be a cherished and celebrated right on college campuses.  Our universities must be a crossroads where people can meet in dialogue:  a place where diverse ideas, cultures and perspectives can be exchanged freely and openly, where ideas are debated and where every sincere contributor is listened to and respected.  Our universities should aspire to be places where the exchange of diverse ideas is welcomed in civil conversation and differences of opinion are not foreclosed.

How do you see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities?

Larry Bradley: Currently, as I view the issue, funding for public education K-16 is under assault, not only in Nebraska, but the entire country.  As a candidate who actually grew up and reside in District 4, I have a history of raising thousands of dollars for students who could not otherwise attend Nebraska public universities.  As a veteran, I am the logical candidate choice to lobby for DOD research funding.  I have the proven leadership and experience to work with all sides on funding issues.

Elizabeth O’Connor: Funding for the University should be viewed as an investment in Nebraska’s future.  The University should be funded fairly – it should not be asked to shoulder a higher burden of cuts than other state agencies. It should spend those funds prudently – every dollar it receives takes a dollar away from other state agencies.  We must invest wisely in Nebraska’s future – the solution to building Nebraska’s economy is not through cuts but through growth.  The University is an engine for that growth.

With the rising costs of higher education, how will you help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education?

Larry Bradley: Affordable Education is one of my platform issues.  As a father, I will fight for Nebraska’s most important resource, which is the future of our children.  I would investigate to see exactly who is profiting from Student loan providers such as NELNET, which is based in Lincoln, NE.  I will be the most vocal about the current President of the U.S. cutting Pell Grants by $3.9 billion and eliminating student loan debt forgiveness programs.  I have been an advocate for low tuition for 30 years now.

Elizabeth O’Connor: There are ways to efficiently provide a high-quality education, such as: leveraging technology and continuing strategic educational partnerships.  While the University is competitively priced, tuition increases weigh heavily on students.  A typical family can expect to spend between 26-30% of its annual income on tuition.  Nebraska invests less than a third of the national average in need-based aid.  I will focus on ensuring that need-based financial aid is available to all eligible students.

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Larry Bradley: First and foremost, I will ensure the atrocious, exploitation of part-time labor at UNO, with respect to the high number of 500 adjunct professors, is brought to the center of debate.  Especially, for those who have not had a raise in ten years or more, and those who had to sign away benefits.  Second, I will ask legal counsel to investigate if the Anti-Affirmative Action petition circulated around Nebraska a half decade ago is still constitutional with respect to hiring diverse faculty.

Elizabeth O’Connor: As a woman and young professional, I will bring a valuable and diverse perspective to the Board as it deals with matters that affect all Nebraskans. The issues regarding free speech and budget may highlight a growing rift between the University and Legislature which would be detrimental to our future.  In my visits with business leaders, elected officials and University administration, it is clear we have a shared a goal: a better future for Nebraska.  I will refocus us on that goal.

Candidates for University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 8

Hal Daub (R):  Web Site: http://haldaubforregent.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 8, 2013 to present.  Past Public Office, dates held: Four elected terms, U.S. House of Representatives, 11981-89; twice elected Mayor of Omaha, 1994-2001.  Education: Batchelors Degree in Business Administration, Washington University, St. Louis, MO; Juris Doctor Degree, University of Nebraska College of Law.   Military experience: 2nd and 1st Lieutent, Infantry Rifle Company, and then promoted to Captain, Company Commander, Second U.S. Army Infantry Division in Korea.  Volunteer experience: Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Autism, Wounded Warriors Family Support, Head Start and Fatherhood Initiative Boards presently; Rotary, Optimists Clubs; Chamber Business Hall of Fame; Distinguished Alumnus of University of Nebraska, Washington Univ.

Barbara Weitz (D):  http://barbaraweitzforregent.com.  Current Public Office, dates held: None.  Past Public Office, dates held: None.  Education: Bachelor of Arts, Carleton College (1970). Master of Public Administration, New York University (1974). Master of Social Work, University of Nebraska at Omaha (1991). PhD candidate (all but dissertation), Case Western Reserve (1998).  Military experience: None.  Volunteer experience: University of Nebraska Foundation board, Urban League of Nebraska board, Avenue Scholars board, Building Bright Futures board, Nebraska Children & Families Foundation board, Women’s Fund of Greater Omaha board         

Candidates for University of Nebraska Board of Regents, District 4

What role does the First Amendment have on college campuses?

Hal Daub:  The Four great freedoms of Press, Religion, Speech and Assembly must be the core policy commitments of our University of Nebraska environment, for students, teachers and our guests and visitors. My strong commitment is to these principles of open and transparent learning proscribed only by such limitations as may be reasonable to facilitate respectful, non-threating conduct, non-disruptive activity or discourse that does not damage the reputation of the University.

Barbara Weitz: Freedom of speech on campus is of the utmost importance. Universities are the foundational institutions where ideas, theories and philosophies can be examined, tested and adopted based on each person’s individual experience and personal values. The role of the university is to create an atmosphere where all perspectives can be expressed and challenged.

How do you see the future of funding for Nebraska’s public universities?

Hal Daub:  Given the State’s limited population and taxpayer resources, funding our $2,6 billion University budget will continue to be a real challenge.  My past experience and efforts in working with Governor Heineman to freeze tuition and my background in managing large budgets at the City of Omaha and the University will provide the oversight necessary to meet these challenges.  I am committed to maintaining the fiscal restraint to insure affordable, accessible education for Nebraska students.

Barbara Weitz: I am very concerned about continued cuts to the University of Nebraska’s budget. As a former UNO professor, I agree that we must be fiscally responsible. However, the University of Nebraska is the number one employer for the state and brings in six dollars for every dollar spent. Continuing to cut the university’s budget and eliminating programs will hurt our ability to recruit and retain faculty and students and provide an affordable education to all Nebraskans.

With the rising costs of higher education, how will you help to ensure that all young Nebraskans have access to a college education?

Hal Daub: Faced with trimming $30 million from administration, I supported creative solutions which involved combining functions and cutting expenses. Over 6,000 students receive their Nebraska University Education on full scholarship, and we have added $5 Million more for Husker Scholarships for each of the next two years from our successful Athletic Department Programs for non-athletic department students. Managing costs, focusing on programs and coursework germane to the future workforce is critical.

Barbara Weitz: The burden of rising tuition and student loan debt prevents many Nebraskans from receiving an affordable education. As Regent, I will find innovative solutions and alternative revenue streams to offset budget cuts and reduce our reliance on tuition increases to balance the university’s budget. These include public-private partnerships with companies and foundations to fund university programs and scholarships and university patents that bring in revenue – I am open to new, creative solutions.

If elected, what two things do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your first year?

Hal Daub: Having Chaired the Audit, Compliance and Risk Management Committee for the Board,  (1)my knowledge of the fiscal and academic programs learned as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee give me subject matter expertise to continue to keep our budget balanced, tuition, board and room competitively affordable (2)work aggressively to help recruit and retain great teachers to assure all students will have a well-administered environment to support great learning experiences, research and outcomes

Barbara Weitz: First, I will work to make the Board of Regents more accessible to the public by increasing opportunities for communication with taxpayers who fund the university. I will hold regular town hall meetings and “office hours” across the district to share information and receive suggestions about what our priorities should be. Second, I will have meetings with private companies and foundations to discover possibilities for raising university revenue through public-private partnerships.

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