U reveals 2002 candidates’ names

After losing a two-year legal battle against several media outlets, including The Minnesota Daily, the University unloaded the names of the 2002 presidential hopefuls – and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The three candidates’ names, which have been kept private because the Board of Regents closed the 2002 search, were unveiled Aug. 13, following a July ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court that could end up costing the University more than $500,000.

The three presidential candidates were Rodney Erickson, executive vice president and provost at Pennsylvania

State University; Sylvia Manning, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Edward Ray, who is now the president at Oregon State University, but at the time was executive vice president and provost at The Ohio State University.

All three candidates declined comment on the selection process.

Cost of the trial

The lawsuit had cost the University more than $207,000 by the end of March, when the state’s high court heard the case. That cost could more than double after the Minnesota Supreme Court awards attorney fees, lawyers representing the media organizations said.

The law firm of Star Tribune attorney John Borger planned to file for $300,000 in attorney fees with the state Supreme Court, said Mark Anfinson, attorney for The Minnesota Daily. The Supreme Court will decide how much of the $300,000 the University will have to pay.

Anfinson said Borger represented all of the media organizations – The Minnesota Daily, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, Rochester Post-Bulletin and the Minnesota Joint Media Committee – for the case, and his attorney fees will be the highest.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said he had not seen the numbers and did not have enough information to comment on the amount.

“It’s impossible to say whether any particular dollar number is appropriate until we examine the material,” he said. “Once we look at the material that accompanies the numbers, we can respond.”

Rotenberg said he tried to be as frugal as possible with the lawsuit’s expenses.

Bruininks chosen

The 2002 search – which produced current President Bob Bruininks – was closed to ensure the best candidate pool, members of the Board of Regents said. The University cited its constitutional autonomy as the reason it did not have to follow state public information laws.

Rotenberg said Bruininks did not apply for the job and

did not consider himself a candidate for the permanent position.

He was named president three days after the Board of Regents closed the selection process. He was not part of the confidential interviews, Rotenberg said.

After the regents interviewed the three candidates, they decided Bruininks would be the best person for the job, Rotenberg said.

Under the state’s Data Practices Act, it was not illegal to withhold Bruininks’ name, Anfinson said.

The law states that the name of a candidate needs to be made public when the individual is selected to be interviewed.

As long as someone is not interviewed, his or her name does not need to be disclosed, Anfinson said.

The move was not preconceived and was not the motive for the confidential selection, he said.

“They didn’t know the end result until the end result happened,” he said.

Bruininks was the interim president when he was chosen for the head position in 2002. Before that, he was executive vice president and provost, second in command to President Mark Yudof.

University News Service Director Amy Phenix said Bruininks never had ambitions to be president of the University.

“He wanted to get things done (as interim president) and not be second-guessed that he only was doing things because he wanted the job of president,” she said.

Bruininks took the job as interim president, and then president, out of dedication to the University, Phenix said.

When appointed interim president, Bruininks had already stepped down as provost and was returning to his faculty position.

“He had planned a life of relaxing and not working so much,” Phenix said. “But he loves the University – he’s very committed and very loyal.”

The next selection

The presidential selection process will suffer as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, Rotenberg said.

Although the University has used open searches in the past, Rotenberg said they don’t work.

Former President Mark Yudof was selected in an open process in 1997, but Rotenberg said it was by default.

The other two candidates in the 1997 search dropped out when their names were announced, he said.

Yudof would not comment on the presidential selection process at the University.

Rotenberg said it is easy for candidates to find out who the favorite is during a presidential selection.

“This is not unknown to people; they investigate carefully and figure out who’s likely to get the job,” Rotenberg said. “That calculation then deprives the Board of Regents the opportunity to evaluate these candidates in a fair way.”

Rotenberg said that in the future, the University will comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. Confidential selections will not continue, unless the state law is amended, he said.

Rotenberg said in the future, the University will comply with the Supreme Court’s decision. Confidential selections will not continue, unless the state law is amended, Rotenberg said.

The Office of the General Counsel is not working on amendments at this time, he said.

Regents Chair David Metzen said the board has discussed going after a state law amendment, but no decision has been made.