Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.
We applaud University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel's decision, announced Monday, to step down from the corporate board of Securian Financial.
As we wrote in an editorial on Sunday, Gabel's appointment to the board, which took effect at the beginning of this year, was a distraction for the university at a time when it is in particular need of government and public support. The board role also posed potential conflicts of interest.
Gabel acknowledged the first concern — at least partly — in a letter to regents on Monday:
"The last several weeks have been extremely painful for me and, I'm sure, very uncomfortable for you, as there have been questions regarding my service on the Board of Directors of Securian Financial. This distraction is unfortunate, as my appointment to the Board of Securian would only expand the University's important networks and outreach. However, out of respect for the institution and to eliminate any further distraction of our work, with a heavy heart, I will be resigning my Securian Financial directorship effective immediately."
St. Paul-based Securian is a holding company that provides a range of financial products and services. The university has a $1.3 billion business relationship with Securian that includes life insurance for U employees.
Concerns about that overlap were growing among some regents and in state government. A conflict-management plan was in place but happily won't have to be put to a real-world test now.
Gabel has been the U's president since 2019. She did right by the public interest ultimately by prioritizing her loyalty to the school.