Potential Hasselmo successors are revealed

by Brian Bakst

After months of private meetings and deliberations, three candidates were publicly identified Friday as possible successors for University President Nils Hasselmo.
The candidates, who have yet to be labeled finalists, include: Auburn University President William Muse, Portland State University President Judith Ramaley and University of Texas-Austin Provost and Executive Vice President Mark Yudof. The names of the candidates were confirmed by advisory search committee members and a source within the Board of Regents office.
All three candidates have extensive experience in higher education administration. “The advisory committee seemed to put a lot of importance on academic background,” Regents Chairman Tom Reagan said.
Muse, 57, was the president of the University of Akron before taking over the top position at Auburn in 1992. While at Akron in 1990, he withdrew his name from a pool of four finalists for the presidency of the University of Kentucky. He was chief academic officer from 1979 to 1982 at Texas A&M University.
Ramaley, 55, has been the president of Portland State University since 1990. Before that she was an executive vice president at the University of Kansas. Ramaley was a finalist for chancellor of the University of Maine last year but withdrew, saying the job description was too limiting.
Yudof, 52, who has been the provost and executive vice president since 1994 at Texas-Austin, was a finalist for the University of Iowa’s vacant presidency last year. He was the dean of the law school at Texas-Austin for 10 years before accepting his current position.
The candidates’ names were first reported by The Minnesota Daily in an online special edition Friday evening and by the Star Tribune in its Saturday edition, weeks before they were scheduled to be released.
Only advisory committee members, some regents, the search consulting firm Korn Ferry International and Regents Executive Director and Corporate Secretary Steve Bosacker knew the names that Tuesday were forwarded to the board.
Some involved in the presidential search expressed concern that the process might be compromised.
“I didn’t think (the names) would break at all,” Reagan said. “I thought we had as good a confidentiality set-up as you could possibly have.”
Reagan has said that revealing the names earlier than scheduled could drive away potential candidates.
But Bosacker said Yudof, Ramaley and Muse, who were notified of the leak Friday, indicated they were willing to continue with the process.
“We’ll do everything possible to keep these very good people, these truly exceptional people, in the pool,” he said.
The Board of Regents named an 11-member advisory committee in June to assist the board in its search for a new president. Candidates’ names have been kept confidential to respect the privacy of individuals who may not want their current employers to know of their interest in the University’s presidency.
News of the early disclosure of candidates’ names shocked regents and some advisory committee members, who had sworn to maintain the confidentiality of the candidates.
“Whoever did this should be ashamed,” said Regent Hyon Kim, who learned of the leak Friday afternoon. “It’s absolutely a dirty shame.”
Ecology professor and advisory committee member Patrice Morrow said if the leak were internal, it would be “criminal that someone on the committee would breech that confidentiality.”
Reportedly, tensions were high on the advisory committee when the vote to forward the names was taken, leading to speculation that the leak came from a source within the committee.
Advisory committee member Matt Musel, the committee’s student representative, said the panel vote was eight to three in favor of presenting the names to regents. The committee is also composed of faculty member, alumni, and business and government representatives.
Musel said the panel was designed to represent diverse interests, so the possibility for disagreement was always present.
“Each of the candidates are demonstrated leaders who have met well the criteria” established by the board, said Musel, who supports the recommendations forwarded to the regents. The board’s “Statement of Desired Leadership Characteristics” calls for candidates who have shown strong leadership skills within a large, complex organization and an understanding and appreciation of academic culture.
Public interviews of candidates by faculty members, alumni, students, regents and other groups are planned for the week of Dec. 9. The board, which will choose the next University president, reserves the right to select an advisory committee candidate or a candidate of its own choosing. Regents expect to announce the new president at a special meeting before Christmas.