Presidential finalists to visit campus next week

by Joel Sawyer

The three finalists for president of the University are coming to town.
Next week, the finalists will visit the University and meet with the Board of Regents, faculty, students and local media in public and private interviews.
Judith Ramaley, president of Portland State University, William Muse, president of Auburn University, and Mark Yudof, executive vice president and provost of the University of Texas at Austin will be on campus Dec. 9-12.
Each finalist will spend a day and a half in the Twin Cities before leaving for one of the other University campuses for brief visits. The regents plan to select the new president Dec. 13 at a special meeting.
The majority of the finalists’ visits will be spent meeting privately with regents and alumni, as well as legislative, faculty and student leaders, but they will also be available for brief public meetings.
The regents will interview each candidate privately in groups of three, but will not conduct open interviews as they did when selecting former University President Ken Keller in 1985 and current University President Nils Hasselmo in 1988. The regents are not prohibited from closing their meetings to the public and media, but a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in 1983 said that doing so when a quorum is on hand — in the regents’ case, seven — is not acceptable under the Open Meeting Law.
Members of the public will be able to question the finalists at an hour-long open forum held in Coffman Memorial Union during the first day of each finalist’s visit.
But some University community members think that the open forums are not long enough for the public to get to know each finalist. They also said they feel the finalists’ visits are scheduled to exclude student involvement.
“There is an alarming trend that when big things happen (at the University) no students are around,” said Jennifer Udelhofen, a member of the Progressive Student Organization.
Udelhofen said the regents should wait to make their decision until more students can voice their opinions of the candidates. Many students will be home for the holidays or finishing final exams when the regents select the new president.
Student leader and presidential advisory search committee member Matt Musel said there is never enough time for everyone to meet with finalists in a presidential search, but that the time allotted for the public should be sufficient.
“It’s enough time to get a sense of the candidates,” Musel said.
Kim Isenberg, the regents’ policy project assistant, agreed with Musel. Open meetings of this length, she said, provide ample time to get questions answered.
Everyone who attends the private and public meetings will have a chance to comment on the finalists by filling out response forms that will be reviewed by the regents. The regents will also meet Dec. 12 with leaders of the groups who privately met with the finalists before they make their final decision.