Yudof earns new contract and pay hike

The University’s Board of Regents unanimously approved a $50,000 per year raise and a new three-year contract for University President Mark Yudof, making him one of the top-paid presidents in the Big Ten. Among the Big Ten, only the president of the University of Michigan and the president of Ohio State University make more money than Yudof. For most students and everyday workers, $275,000 a year is a lot of money. By other standards, it’s not. Yudof makes far less than University football coach Glen Mason, whose salary hovers around the $429,000 level. Frank Cerra, senior vice president for th Academic Health Center, made a reported $295,000.
While pay increases for public officials are often criticized as too high, Yudof’s pay hike is money well spent. In his first year, he has developed a student-friendly atmosphere, fostered internal and statewide communications and secured the largest bonding bill for the University in history. Moreover, the contract’s length, a departure from the series of one-year deals for Nils Hasselmo, signifies a commitment to excellence that will enable the University to continue to attract talented people in the future.
Yudof has given a clear signal that enriching the college experience for undergraduate students is a priority. He’s been quite vocal about increasing the amount of on-campus housing and the availability of seminar courses to undergraduates. In fact, he’ll be showing his support by co-teaching a seminar course in the fall called Students and the Constitution. Classrooms are being remodeled, and classroom technology is being increased. Walter Library is undergoing an overhaul. Increased e-mail access is another one of his initiatives. Beautification of the campus is one of his top priorities.
In addition to building trust and a sense of community among the students, staff and faculty, Yudof has shown the ability to quickly forge ties throughout the state. The most obvious proof is his good standing with Gov. Arne Carlson and the current Legislature, which approved his monumental capital bonding request and a $36 million supplemental budget. Opening communication between the University and the community seems to be one of his greatest strengths.
Despite a seemingly easy first year, conflicts will arise. Only recently has he come under attack by angry residents of Falcon Heights who oppose the University’s push to build a new Women’s soccer complex in their neighborhood. Other conflicts that might arise concern the allocation of his newly acquired Legislative funds. Also, there’s no guarantee the Legislature will come through in 1999 the way they did in 1998. There will be a new governor to face as well.
Maintaining his current energy level may be Yudof’s greatest challenge. His strategic plan will undergo close scrutiny in the coming months. In addition to his initiatives, how he handles the implementation of semester conversion — the largest project he has inherited — will cement his mark as president. The new contract will allow Yudof to proceed aggressively and confidently, and hopefully he will continue to add to his string of accomplishments.