Bruininks named president; regents approve ’04-’05 budget

Paul Sand

The University Board of Regents unanimously approved interim President Robert Bruininks on Friday as the 15th president of the University.

“I want to tell you how humbled and honored I am to accept this position and the responsibilities that go with it,” Bruininks said.

The regents’ appointment of Bruininks effectively ends the University’s five-month, nationwide presidential search, which yielded 120 candidates. Former University President Mark Yudof resigned May 31 to become chancellor at the University of Texas System.

In an emergency meeting held Nov. 4, the regents said the presidential search advisory committee had submitted five to seven finalists to the board for the position. Thursday, the regents named Bruininks as the sole finalist in the search.

In the discussion before making the appointment, the regents expressed overwhelming support for Bruininks.

“Bob just has every single quality you could hope for, wish for, expect from a president,” Regent Frank Berman said. “I just think this is going to be a stellar administration with stellar leadership, and I couldn’t be more thrilled or enthusiastic about it.”

Regent Dave Metzen said hiring a president from within the University is a reaffirmation of the quality of its staff.

Bruininks has worked at the University for 35 years in various positions, including educational psychology professor and executive vice president and provost. He also served as dean of the College of Education and Human Development from 1991-97.

In a short speech following his appointment, Bruininks thanked his former boss for his support.

“I wouldn’t be standing here today if Mark Yudof hadn’t had the confidence to ask me to serve in his administration,” he said.

The Board of Regents also approved the conditions of Bruininks’ contract Friday. In his contract, which runs through June 30, 2005, Bruininks will receive an annual salary of $340,000 along with $25,000 in deferred compensation for this academic year and $50,000 in 2003-04. Bruininks will also have use of a car and live at Eastcliff, the University’s presidential mansion.

2004-05 biennial budget

The regents also approved the 2004-05 biennial operating budget Friday. The proposal calls for $96 million in state funding. The University will also contribute $96 million, with $46.2 million coming from tuition increases of 4.5 percent in each of the two years. The $50 million balance will come from reallocations within the University.

Bruininks said the budget addresses the University’s real needs and not the University’s aspirations. It is the lowest budget request in 10 years, he said.

The proposal outlined the University’s four institutional priorities, including: maintaining major investments such as the medical education research and molecular and cellular biology programs, offering faculty and staff competitive salaries and benefits, improving career advising for students and constructing new facilities.

Bruininks said the University will make targeted reductions and identify areas and departments that are underperforming or are not as important. Bruininks did not specify which departments might face reductions.

Regent Jean Keffeler called the proposal “responsible,” adding that she would like to see as much scholarship funding as possible. Keffeler also said the University should commit itself to providing the best faculty and staff compensation possible.

This budget proposal will go to the state Legislature for approval in its next session, which begins in January.