Gubernatorial hopefuls seek vision from next U president

Andrew Pritchard

The biennial drama of the University’s legislative budget request will star two newcomers next spring: a first-term governor and a freshly appointed University president.

The filing period for gubernatorial candidates ended Tuesday, and with the Board of Regents’ approval Friday of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, those candidates have begun thinking about what qualities they most want to see in the next University president.

“I think somebody a lot like Yudof would be great,” said Independence Party candidate Tim Penny, a senior fellow and co-director of the University’s Humphrey Institute Policy forum.

Penny said Yudof had a vision for the campus, managed it well, cut administrative overhead, and tried to focus on high-priority areas.

“I would hope that whoever they select would be someone that would try to build on that direction,” he said.

Republican gubernatorial candidate and state House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, also praised Yudof and said, “As we replace Mark Yudof, I’d like to find somebody like Mark Yudof.

“I think he is bright, he’s a strong leader, he was a reformer, he was a change agent. Those are the kinds of characteristics that we’d like to see.”

Pawlenty also said the presidential search should not ignore available Minnesotans.

“Let’s have a national search,” he said, “but I’d like to see somebody who’s got the same kind of characteristics as Mark Yudof has demonstrated.”

Roger Moe, state Senate majority leader and Democratic candidate for governor, said Yudof improved student completion time, made capital upgrades to the campus, and moved the University into new research areas in biology and genomics.

“Certainly I think that President Yudof took the University to the next level,” and the next president should continue that progress, he said.

But Green Party gubernatorial candidate Ken Pentel criticized some of Yudof’s decisions, such as allowing wild rice genome experiments and supporting the Mount Graham observatory.

He said the next University president should pursue “making the school itself a model of sustainable living” and representing the state’s entire population, including low-income students.

Pentel said he saw Yudof as status quo, not a visionary.

“I’m sure he did some very decent things and he fought hard to get more money for the University of Minnesota,” Pentel said. “But how is that money being spent, that’s what I want to ask.”

Pentel said the next president should be a “practical visionary” with a track record of being able to manage a large institution.

He also said the University should seek innovative solutions to student debt, pursue energy efficiency and use its purchasing power to promote a healthier, sustainable world.

Pawlenty said if he were elected, he would ask the University to do fewer things but do them at “a higher level of excellence,” while shifting some of the University’s functions to the other state colleges and universities.

“ÖWith our great University of Minnesota, we ask it to do too much,” Pawlenty said of the University’s teaching, research and outreach functions. “… That’s a lot, and it’s hard to expect the University to do all that with a level of excellence.”