It’s kind of amazing, in a way, how lucky University President Mark Yudof has been. I know a bunch of people are presently up in arms about his big raises, but how many of us can truly say the man hasn’t deserved it? Just look at all the garbage and scandals he’s had to wade through, and yet he’s been able to bypass it all and still defend the University, its community and its interests. That said, one can’t help but wonder how long that luck can hold out.
The man has been resilient and intelligent in handling such idiocies as the athletic scandal. He’s also been lucky because, for all this nonsense and much of the new biomedical fiasco, he can fall back on his genuine new-kid-in-town ignorance of their discrepancies. It works well for him and the University community, but there has to be somebody who’s responsible. He’s committed to finding that out; when he does, we will witness a true test of his integrity. The University has a habit of using the “golden parachute” as a quick fix to the University’s leadership ills.
Some will point to the buyout of Clem Haskins’ contract as proof that we still suffer from the golden parachute malady, but it still doesn’t touch the boss. The jury is still out on everything involving the faults of the athletics department, and for all we know, though it’s probably unlikely, Haskins might have to pay all that money back.
The reality is that Yudof and the school are basically off the hook and on to other things. There’s already a new coach and an altogether new scheme to the Gophers. Everything’s moved on, waiting for the judgment of the NCAA. Just being able to do that kind of administrative “bobbing, weaving and dancing” automatically justifies his raise.
He’s not only a great dancer, he’s also successfully endeared himself to the community and its people. We never saw anything like a Staff Appreciation Day or a Beautiful U Day under Nils Hasselmo. He’s shown more genuine concern and care for us and the University’s overall growth than I’ve seen from most of our higher echelon in almost 10 years. There’s a commitment involved with this guy and a hint of some kind of genuine legacy being established.
Fortunately for this community, he appears to be from a different vein of leadership than what we’ve been used to over the last 10 years. We’ve seen so many corporate flash-in-the-pan answers to the University’s problems, and such a long procession of administrative losers at the helm, that Yudof will be earning his raise just in straightening out the mess. He’s just starting to separate the real from the shlock.
He’s going to have to weed these people out and find others who put the University’s needs over their personal desires. We’ve seen way too many good programs and good people jettisoned from the University, all to promote lame systems from fools in power. Too often we’ve gone outside the University, wasting valuable time and money to find leaders without looking inside first.
The boss has to find out who’s getting the kickbacks and who’s doing the dirty deals. He’s got to know that we’re getting tired of fly-by-night deals like those made with Aramark and Coca-Cola. He’s got to know we’ll be watching close to see if his commitment is real or if he is another master of smoke and mirrors. He knows already the visibility involved with this place. No one nor anything is sacred.
The boss has also lucked out, so far, with the unions and the contracts with the public service areas of the school. It must all be a part of that administrative “honeymoon” that’s given to new office heads, but he must understand the raise will put an end to that. He better know that as much as he’s been deserving of that raise, there are a lot of good people here who’ve had to fight or bypass idiotic systems, arrogant leadership and incompetent management to provide the basic daily necessities.
We deserve better, but we understand the value of patience and timing. The next contracts will be much different, I’m sure, because the honeymoon will be over, and it will be time for the workers’ value to be truly rewarded. As workers of all levels, we’ve seen too many of the inept and incompetent rewarded in this institution, not for what they know, but for who they know.
You have to give credit where it’s due, and Yudof deserves a lot for now. He’s turned things around a bit. All we can hope for is that he’s as genuine as he appears and that we continue heading in a positive direction. Time will tell.
We were once all part of the University equation with an understanding that what we put in would be returned in regard and respect, regardless of standing or station. If the president can once again establish that kind of wherewithal, then he can virtually name his price. For now, he deserves all the praise we can show him, but the substance and quality have to continue, and the University has to come first before personal ambitions and other tripe at all levels.
Skip Staehnke has been an employee of the facilities management department for 26 years.