Faculty, students reserve judgment on candidates

Jim Martyka

After months of speculation, the University community finally knows the final candidates for the next University president. Now, student and faculty leaders are focusing their attention on whether the candidates have what it takes to lead the school into the future.
“We need the person to have strong leadership skills and the ability to understand the many constituents of this large University,” said Carl Adams, former chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee.
Faculty and student leaders agreed that the next president will need strong personal traits. But they are not sure that the University presidential candidates have the experience necessary to do the job.
The candidates, whose names were revealed Friday, are all that remain from a pool that started with 50 to 60 applications and about 200 nominations. The University’s Board of Regents formed a search committee that narrowed down the pool of candidates.
The three candidates are: Mark Yudof, executive vice president at the University of Texas, William Muse, the president of Auburn University and Judith Ramaley, president of Portland State University. However, the regents are still accepting applications, and expect to choose University President Nils Hasselmo’s successor by the end of December.
Both faculty and student leaders said they were uncertain about whether any of the three candidates are right for the job of University president.
“We will learn a lot about the candidates when they come to be interviewed,” said geology professor V. Rama Murthy, who is president of the American Association of University Professors-Twin Cities chapter. “When they start talking around the University about what their vision is, then we’ll find out if they are right for the role.”
One of the main concerns about the candidates is their lack of experience at a large research institution like the University.
“I think it’s a widely shared concern,” said Virginia Gray, chairwoman of the Faculty Consultative Committee. “However, you have to weigh this against the possibility of finding a diamond in the rough.”
Corey Donovan, chairman of the Minnesota Student Association’s academic affairs committee, said that the candidates are likely qualified. “The search committee obviously felt there was a reason to choose these people,” he said. “They must have the skills they were looking for.”
MSA President Helen Phin said the organization is currently making a list of qualifications they feel are important for a new president. They will submit the list to the regents before the regents select a new president.
Some of these qualifications include assertiveness, versatility, approachability and openness, Phin said.
“Our most important goal is to make sure the regents are also looking for these characteristics in a president,” Phin said.
Adams also said it takes administrative expertise to lead the University. “The person will need the skills to make this large University a well-managed, accountable place,” he said.
Many faculty feel Yudof is the leading candidate because he has experience at a larger institution. “Of the three, faculty seem to think he is the most likely to get the job,” said Murthy. “But all of them are qualified.”
The search committee and other University groups will conduct interviews with candidates in early December before making their final selection.