Ramaley drops out of president race

by Brian Bakst

Editor’s note: This story, which covers recent developments in the University’s presidential search, is being included apart from the urban legends format of this issue.

and Joel Sawyer

For the second time in two days the University lost a finalist in its search for a new president when Judith Ramaley of Portland State University withdrew from consideration on Friday.
Ramaley’s announcement leaves only one finalist, Mark Yudof of the University of Texas, for the post. William Muse, president of Auburn University, dropped out of contention Thursday after signing a lucrative five-year contract with his school.
Board of Regents Chairman Tom Reagan said the latest withdrawal was disappointing, but it would not hinder the selection process. “We see no reason why the process should be stopped, he said. “We had three great candidates, now we have one.”
Yudof is scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis on Tuesday for public and private interviews Wednesday and Thursday. Both Ramaley and Muse withdrew from consideration before interviewing.
“(Yudof) is an excellent candidate,” Reagan added. “Frankly he would’ve been my choice personally, among the three. I’m pleased that we have him.”
In a written statement released Friday, Ramaley said the University community’s conflicting ideas about the school’s future and the new president’s role in leading the institution were factors in her decision to drop out.
With only two candidates, she said, “the search process will not set up conditions that begin to rebuild the sense of trust and communication that will be necessary if the next president, the Board, and the campuses are to work together in partnership to realize the developmental potential inherent” in the University.
Ramaley’s reasons for dropping out perplexed regents and faculty who Ramaley assured last week that she was in the search until the end.
“I was kind of puzzled by her statement,” said Faculty Consultative Committee Chair woman Virginia Gray. “I wish I could talk to her and find out what she meant.”
Reagan said he explained the strengths and weaknesses of the University to Ramaley and provided her with documents detailing the University’s plans for the future.
“She indicated that she wasn’t concerned with any perceived problems at the University and said she rather enjoyed solving problems,” he said.
Reagan said he disagreed with Ramaley’s statement that the University has “mixed expectations” for its future.
“That’s hogwash,” he said. “I’d like to have her show me some University that is better prepared and has done more in the way of strategy for the future than we have.”
Reagan speculated that there might be other reasons behind Ramaley’s departure.
“It could be that (Ramaley) recognized how strong her opposition was, and it could be that she’s been reading the tea leaves like I have and has seen how well (Yudof) has been received on campus.”
Ramaley remains a finalist for president at the University of Vermont where she interviewed last week. In her statement, Ramaley did not mention the Vermont position as a factor in her withdrawal.
Ramaley’s withdrawal upset many who saw her as a strong candidate.
Regent Hyon Kim expressed regret that Ramaley dropped out. “I was kind of excited about having a woman as a candidate,” she said.
Minnesota Student Association President Helen Phin, who along with several student leaders endorsed Ramaley Thursday, was disappointed by Ramaley’s move.
“It’s too bad she dropped out. I think the University was on the edge of something really great in terms of having two really good candidates.”
After Yudof is interviewed by regents, the public, faculty members, and students, the board will decide on Friday if he has the qualifications to be the next president of the University.
Odds are that he does in the minds of most regents and many faculty members.
“We’re fortunate to have someone as talented and experienced as this man in our fold,” said Reagan.
“He seems like a go-getter. He gets a lot accomplished and gets very high praise from faculty and students I’ve talked to,” said Gray.
The possibility remains that Yudof could drop out, too, something he has done before. In the last two years he was a finalist at Iowa and Illinois and pulled out late in those searches.
The regents could also find a chink in Yudof’s armor and discard him as unworthy.
“If the regents find he doesn’t have the credentials and doesn’t seem to fit our needs, then we won’t hire him and we’ll start the search over,” Reagan said.
The Board would likely dip into the pool of applicants from which Muse, Ramaley and Yudof were culled and also pursue additional candidates if a new search is begun.
Meanwhile, during a new search an interim president could be named to take control of the University. But Reagan questioned the need for such a measure.
“Why would we need one?” Reagan asked. “To go and get another president to run the place for a couple of months ’til we get a new president — that doesn’t seem to make much sense, Reagan said.
He added that the board would have plenty of time to find a president if this search fails. “We have a president who serves us until July 1, 1997.”