President Gabel Conflict of Interest


Jack Radomski, Editor

The University of Minnesota president Joan Gabel has become the subject of many news stories this week due to her involvement with insurance and financial services firm Securian Financial, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gabel was a member of the board of directors from December 2022 until January 23 of this year, when she announced she would be stepping down. 

This move comes only a few days after Minnesotans across the state were calling for the president to step down from her role on the board. A piece written by the editorial board of the Star Tribune called for Gabel’s resignation of her position at Securian, stating “the school doesn’t need the potential conflict or distraction of its president’s new side gig.” 

Other outlets with thousands of viewers across the Twin Cities Metro and beyond, covered the story and focused on the criticism that surrounded it. Minnesota Public Radio, Pioneer Press, and MinnPost all covered the conflict of interest story that was arising with the university’s most powerful figure.

President Gabel certainly heard the commotion over her board position, and decided to step down. Minnesotans by a large agree that it was the right decision, and one that was necessary to prevent the University of Minnesota from entering the spotlight for the wrong reason once again. 

This resignation comes only a month after Gabel’s confirmation to the board, as the Securian board voted to approve her seat after Gabel and the board worked out a conflict of interest management plan. 

Gabel spoke to the public after her resignation, saying: “This distraction is unfortunate, as my appointment to the Board of Securian would only expand the University’s important networks and outreach,” said Gabel. “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.”

The reputation of the University of Minnesota school system has been attacked multiple times in recent memory, including controversial comments by a regent and an interim chancellor appointment in Duluth. This interim chancellor appointment stuck amid allegations of conflict of interest, ones similar to the allegations that were thrown at Gabel as soon as she was added to the eleven person board at Securian. 

The conflict of interest in this particular story comes from the university’s relationship with Minnesota Life, an affiliate of Securian Financial. Minnesota Life oversees employee life insurance for the university under a contract worth $4.6 million. In addition to this massive contract, Gabel would receive $130,000 annually for her participation on the board. 

Despite the apparent confidence the board had in Gabel and themselves in December to remain fair and honest, they succumbed to public pressure a month later. Members of the school, city, and state community obviously felt differently. 

George Merkt, a second semester senior student at the University of Minnesota, agrees with the sentiments of the Star Tribune’s editorial board and other members of the media calling for Gabel’s resignation of her Securian board membership.

“I thought it was odd that our university’s president was a board member of a company which we have a million dollar contract with. It does not seem like a good practice for university officials in general, and I am glad that president Gabel decided to step down.” 

The resignation happened only a few days ago, and president Gabel and the rest of the board of regents will have to wait the see the full reaction of the Minnesota state and school community. To stay up to date on all University of Minnesota news and to read official press releases, visit