The importance of keeping the cost of attending college affordable promises to be a key issue in upcoming University of Nebraska Board of Regents races.
Some challengers also point out that the board now contains only white men who are 50 years of age or much older.
Four of eight regents districts are in play this year, but only two of those have more than two candidates, so one candidate in each of those districts will be bumped in the primary in May.
The eight-person Board of Regents oversees the institutions of the NU system — the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska at Kearney. The board also watches over the two-year Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.
Regents aren’t paid. They receive two season tickets for Husker football.
Incumbent Hal Daub faces Barbara Weitz and Ryan Wilkins in District 8, which includes much of Douglas County.
Daub, an attorney, is a longtime Nebraska politician with experience in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Omaha’s mayor and now six years as a regent.
Daub, 76, said his main objective is to keep NU accessible and affordable. He said the regents have done so. UNL, for instance, is “the least expensive of the Big Ten and our peer schools,” he said.
Weitz said the Board of Regents would benefit from diversity, “and that diversity isn’t reflected” by the current board.
“This is my one and only political attempt,” said Weitz, 69. “I did run for safety patrol when I was in sixth grade.” She is a retired UNO social work faculty member.
She and her husband, Wally, donated money to build the Community Engagement Center at UNO, and the university named it after Barbara Weitz.
Also running in that district is attorney Ryan Wilkins. The 35-year-old said the board needs the voice of a younger person who has children who will eventually attend college.
“I love the university,” said Wilkins, who got his bachelor’s degree at UNL. Wilkins, 35, was a student regent, performed on the cheer squad and belonged to a fraternity, among other things. He has made a humorous rap video to promote his campaign.
Daub is a Republican, Weitz a Democrat, Wilkins an independent.
In District 5, Regents Chairman Rob Schafer has two opponents, Robert J. Prokop and Joshua Redwine. District 5 is much of the southeast corner of the state, including part of Lancaster County.
Schafer, 50, calls himself a good example of NU’s value. Even though his family battled the farm crisis, he was able to go to UNL and move up the ladder.
He wants others to have that opportunity and was the sole regent in June who voted against a 5.4 percent tuition increase.
Joshua Redwine said he, too, could offer a fresh perspective to the board.
“I like education. I like the university,” Redwine, 32, said. He said new ideas “and a different voice” are needed. He is African-American.
“We all bring different perspectives to the table,” he said. Redwine, a professional photographer, has a civil engineering degree from UNL.
Prokop, 83, served on the Board of Regents from 1971 to 1982. He was defeated then and has tried to get back on the board multiple times.
Prokop, of Wilber, is a forensic pathologist. He said affordability has been a challenge for a long time for NU.
He spent many years as a student at UNL and the med center. “I couldn’t do it today, no way, because of the economics of it.”