Seven candidates are running to set the University of Nebraska’s overall policy and manage its budget on the Board of Regents this fall.
Two candidates are facing off in three open districts, with incumbent Jim Pillen running unopposed in District 3. Nebraska citizensliving in each respective district will vote for their candidate during the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
In District 4, current Board of Regents member Bob Whitehouse is not running for re-election, so University of Nebraska Omaha professor Larry Bradley and former student regent Elizabeth O’Connor are the primary candidates for this position. O’Connor won approximately 72 percent of the vote during the primary election.
Former Board of Regents member Robert Prokop is running against incumbent Robert Schafer in District 5. Prokop served on the board from 1971 to 1982 and is a forensic pathologist, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Schafer has been on the Board of Regents since 2013, and Nebraska Secretary of State election results show he won about 50 percent of the vote during the primary election.
Incumbent Hal Daub and challenger Barbara Weitz earned more votes than fellow District 8 primary candidate Ryan Wilkins, according to Nebraska Secretary of State election results. Weitz earned about 43 percent of the vote, and Daub earned 41 percent of the vote.
Student regent and president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska Hunter Traynor said the newly elected Board of Regents’ main priority will be to reorganize the budget and maintain a low tuition. He encouraged people to vote and said the Board of Regents is vital to the state of Nebraska.
“Whoever is elected and whoever continues to serve on the board, myself included, need to assure that we are steadfast communicators of the vast importance this university plays in the entire state,” Traynor said. “This university is, in my opinion, the heart and soul of the state of Nebraska.”
District 8 Candidate: Hal Daub
Who is Hal Daub?
Incumbent Hal Daub has been a regent since he was elected in 2012. Prior to the Board of Regents, he was a Nebraska representative for the United States House of Representatives from 1981 to 1989 and mayor of Omaha from 1995 to 2001, according to his website.
Daub received a bachelor of arts degree from Washington University and graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1965. He also served as captain and company commander in the army from 1966 to 1968. Currently, he is a partner at Husch Blackwell Law Firm and is involved in many local organizations such as the Salvation Army and the Boy Scouts of America Mid-America Council. The Omaha World-Herald has endorsed him.
Daub said UNL has a special place in his heart, and he has set up a financial-need scholarship in his family’s name. He believes the school’s resources are critical.
Why does Daub want to be a Board of Regents candidate?
Daub said he finds public service compelling and he works hard to help the community. He has held numerous nonpartisan positions in the past and enjoys solving the community’s problems.
“I think you can make a big difference in public life if you’re willing to listen to people, be patient, be tolerant of different points of view and enjoy bringing people together to accomplish problem-solving,” Daub said.
Why is Daub qualified for this position?
Daub said his multiple government positions have prepared him to serve on the Board of Regents. He said the policy-making experiences he has had on the federal and state level give him a unique perspective as a regent and will help with different issues the board will face.
He also said he believes he could be a more effective leader his second term than he was his first term.
“It has been my experience that second-term public servants are more productive …” Daub said. “[They] have learned a lot, have developed an understanding and appreciation for the environment for that particular level of government and what it’s supposed to deliver to its stakeholders and to the community and [they possess] better judgement about the leadership requirements of that job.”
What are the main goals Daub wishes to accomplish if elected?
Daub said it is important to keep tuition affordable and competitive for students. He said a third of the university’s revenue is tuition, and finding more effective ways to manage the money could keep tuition low.
“We’ve done a good job as a board of managing our spending and our costs to keep tuition down and keep it competitive,” Daub said. “That’s a very important mission going forward.”
Daub also said the university has “a real need to improve our retention.” He also said it’s important to have good mental health services, a welcoming campus environment and good advisers, so enrollment can remain high.
“All of those things are important goals for me and all of my colleagues on the Board of Regents,” he said. “We work hard together to cooperate and encourage the administrative management and leadership of the university to focus on those things that are very student-oriented.”
Additionally, Daub said he wants to contribute to workforce development in Nebraska. Although many students graduate from Nebraska each year, Daub said half of them take a job out-of-state.
“We’ve got to diversify our workforce in Nebraska so we can keep more of these talented students we teach to handle the jobs in the future, get those jobs in Nebraska so they can stay here,” he said.
Cybersecurity issues are also important to Daub. He said this is a world-wide threat and wants to ensure students’ personal information and the university’s research remain safe.
The engineering programs are also important to Daub. He wants to attract more people to the programs, and he said some changes are underway to improve the programs.
“We’ve got good programs, but they need to be better,” Daub said.
How will Daub advocate against state budget cuts?
Daub said he will advocate for sustained, reliable support through the governor’s budget and legislative appropriation.
He said the university has been “short-sheeted” in past years, but he said it is important to remember the state deficit Nebraska has faced the last four years. He said he will fight for the university’s “fair share,” but he thinks it is important to consider the state’s other priorities.
“We’re just not the only fish in the ocean that depends upon some state support,” he said. “We can’t just say, ‘Don’t cut us or tighten our belts. Take it away from somebody else and give it to us.’ We need to be more realistic and practical about how we fit in to the total picture and not be perceived as too demanding, too extreme in our views.”
What are Daub’s thoughts on the race itself?
Daub will continue campaigning and knocking on doors so people will vote for him. He said he is raising the needed funds and has “a worthy opponent.”