Field narrows as Muse bows out

by Joel Sawyer

In a surprise announcement Thursday, William Muse, president of Auburn University, withdrew from consideration for the presidency of the University.
Muse dropped out of contention after signing a five-year contract at Auburn Thursday that will boost his pay to $193,000 annually. He had been scheduled to visit the University for interviews next week.
In a written statement, Muse said the unprecedented expression of support he received in Alabama over the past few weeks convinced him to stay at Auburn.
“My heart is in Auburn,” he said. “All of us search for those places and those opportunities where we can make a difference — where we are wanted and needed … and I believe that this is where (I am) needed.”
Muse’s announcement came just days after finalist Judith Ramaley, president of Portland State University, told reporters she was one of four semi-finalists for president of the University of Vermont. She remains a finalist at the University but has not said which school she would choose if offered both jobs.
Mark Yudof, provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas at Austin also remains in the running.
While Muse’s withdrawal and Ramaley’s interest in Vermont are a concern to the Board of Regents, Chairman Tom Reagan said the board will continue to pursue Ramaley and Yudof.
“My personal view is that we started out with three fine candidates, all of whom would make a good president of the University of Minnesota,” Reagan said. “One dropping out doesn’t diminish the skills of the other two.”
At this time, Reagan said, the regents will not consider conducting a new presidential search and will not dip into the pool of seven semi-finalists from which Muse, Ramaley and Yudof were selected.
“I’d be fully prepared, myself, personally, to pursue the other two and hire either one of them,” he said.
The possibility now exists that the University’s next president could be chosen by default if Ramaley accepts the Vermont position — a fact that Reagan said concerns him. He said it was premature to speculate on what the regents would do if such a situation occurred.
Ramaley and Yudof are scheduled to arrive on campus next week for public and private interviews with regents, faculty, student leaders and other University constituent groups.
Muse was scheduled to be on campus Dec. 10-11.
In other developments Thursday:
ù The regents reversed their earlier decision not to hold public interviews with the finalists. The regents received pressure from media and other groups that decried the lack of public access to the finalists.
The regents will still privately interview the candidates as they have in the past, in groups of three.
The regents had planned to close all meetings between board members and finalists, a move that was criticized as an attempt to skirt the Minnesota Open Meeting Law. The law allows the regents to hold private meetings only when they meet in small groups.
“The way we had it set up was to give more intimate time for individual regents in groups of three to get to know the candidates,” Reagan said. “We weren’t trying to circumvent the open meeting law or anything like that.”
The regents’ public interviews are tentatively scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 9 for Ramaley, and at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 for Yudof.
ù Minnesota Student Association leaders held a press conference at Coffman Memorial Union to endorse Ramaley.
“Judith Ramaley is a proven leader who has the strengths and leadership qualities to lead the University in the right direction. She is the right person for the state of Minnesota,” said MSA President Helen Phin.
Joining Phin at the event were Academic Affairs Chairman Corey Donovan, Vice President Eric Hanson and Middlebrook Hall representative Adam Miller.
MSA members voted overwhelmingly for Ramaley in an unofficial straw poll at Tuesday’s biweekly meeting of the Forum.