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On the Value of Bringing In an Outsider

To Run a Bloated and Dysfunctional University System

Some words from California about Mark Yudof, former University of Minnesota president:

The first outsider brought in to run the nation's premier public university in more than a century, Yudof was hired to shake up and refocus a bureaucracy some portray as bloated and dysfunctional.

Perhaps no one is more eagerly anticipating Yudof's arrival than Richard Blum, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, and the driving force who personally recruited the University of Texas chancellor.

“He's a proven manager,? Blum said in a recent interview. “He is, in my view, probably the best person in the country we could have hired with a proven ability to manage a multi-campus system. He did it both in Minnesota and in Texas, and I think we're extremely fortunate to get him.?

At the same time, he is expected to give the UC a forceful, experienced presence in budget and other negotiations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers.

Blum said that, in his more than four years as a regent, “little measurable progress? had been made in response to chronic complaints about faculty salaries, class sizes and capital project delays.

“I believe the fundamental problem is an overgrown UC administrative infrastructure that substitutes motion for progress,? Blum said.

Michael Brown, chairman of the UC Academic Senate, said Yudof brings “a commitment to academic excellence and diversity, and a deep appreciation of shared governance. I believe the faculty will be pleased with the appointment.?

Louise Hendrickson, president of the UC Students Association, said students have high expections for Yudof. In particular, Hendrickson said, students hope he can persuade the Legislature to start restoring past UC budget cuts.

The relentless run-up in fees has made it increasingly difficult for existing students, Hendrickson said, and “is pushing away other people who should be at the university.?

Robert Meister, president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, said Yudof “is widely regarded as someone who fought for the importance of public higher education and publicly funded higher education in both Minnesota and Texas in a way that Dynes did not.?

Most big-time universities today seem to hire outsiders for the job of president or chancellor. Witness recent events at Cornell, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is hard to believe that someone entrenched in the bureaucracy of a university for thirty years, or ten, is the best candidate in the world to lead that institution.

Hopefully we will seriously explore the outsider option the next time there is a search for a president or provost at the University of Minnesota.

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