Yudof listens to AHC’s concerns

by Jim Martyka

Finishing up an extended weekend visit to the University, University President-elect Mark Yudof addressed concerns from Academic Health Center faculty members Tuesday at an open forum in the Mayo Memorial Building auditorium.
His main theme throughout the afternoon was his desire to be directly involved with the health center when he becomes University president in July.
“I’d like to be in the consultative loop,” he said. “It’s important for you to understand that you are part of a larger enterprise.”
Yudof, who was expected to answer specifically prepared questions off of a sheet, decided to make the hour-long forum a more laid-back discussion instead.
“I don’t have a detailed knowledge of some of these (questions),” he said. The prepared sheet had detailed questions that faculty members had prepared earlier. Yudof instead took questions from the floor.
Many of the questions asked for Yudof’s perspective on the re-engineering and redistribution of power in the health center.
“I think the power should be in the departments and colleges,” he said. Yudof also said he would work closely with Frank Cerra, provost of the health center.
Within this re-engineering theme, another question solicited Yudof’s opinion on the system of Responsibility Center Management, which some faculty members said might benefit the health center.
In this system, each unit in the University is responsible for all of its costs, including utilities and space rent. However, each unit also keeps all the revenue it collects.
Yudof said he doesn’t feel this approach is right for the University. “My view is that it is easy to overstate the advantages of this,” he said.
But Yudof said that if a particular unit isn’t bringing in the same revenue as another, it is still important to the University. “There has to be some cross-subsidies,” he said.
Yudof also addressed faculty members’ concerns that outside consultants were being brought in to do work some in some faculty members’ specialties.
Faculty members applauded when Yudof responded to a concern about administrative power in the health center.
“I’ve already said that there should be a reduction in the level of administration University-wide,” he said. “We’ll work on that problem.”
Faculty members also asked questions about how Yudof would be involved with the reorganization of the College of Biological Sciences, the balancing of the health center’s budget and the distribution of power to smaller schools like the School of Nursing.
To the latter issue, Yudof jokingly told faculty members, “We’ll have to tell Cerra to pay attention to you. And if he doesn’t, let me know.”
Yudof also answered questions on broader University issues, such as the tenure debate, which he said was one factor that prevented him from sending in his application letter for the presidency earlier.
Tenure reform sparked heated controversy between faculty members and the Board of Regents for a major part of last year. Only recently has the issue begun to subside.
“The tenure issue has to be put behind us,” Yudof said. “It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong.”
However, Yudof also said he felt progress on the issue has taken place. “We’re out of the mode of picking each other apart and into the mode of making this place a better place,” he said.
Yudof also told faculty members he was optimistic about working to make the University a distinguished school. “The University should be in the top five public research institutions in the nation,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why this can’t be done.”
The forum was organized by the Faculty Consultative Committee of the Academic Health Center, primarily to provide an opportunity for faculty members to voice their opinions.
Cerra said he thought the forum was effective. He said that Yudof is the kind of person who works well with faculty members and administration members.
“He’s a great person for the job,” Cerra said. “I look forward to working with him.”
Yudof also said he felt positive about the discussion. “I can’t solve all the problems overnight,” he said. “All I can do now is open the pipeline for discussion and do what I can to hear their concerns, which I think we did today.”