Top administrators face uncertain future

Jim Martyka

Several top administrators at the University might find themselves without a job sometime in July if the Board of Regents approves President-designate Mark Yudof’s plan for reorganizing central administration at its upcoming May meetings.
One part of Yudof’s plan would promote the positions of vice president for Student Development and Athletics, currently held by McKinley Boston, and vice president for Research and dean of the Graduate School, held by Mark Brenner. The two positions, which now report to other administrators, would directly answer to the president.
But Brenner, who has occupied his present position for the past three years, might not work there much longer. In a letter detailing his proposed revamping of University administration sent to the regents on Friday, Yudof announced a nation-wide search for someone to take over the job. Brenner will serve until a new administrator is found.
Tonya Moten Brown, who will be Yudof’s chief of staff said, however, that Brenner will have the opportunity to reapply for his position during the search, which Brenner said he will do.
“I’ve been at the University for over 27 years,” Brenner said. “I’ve very much enjoyed being at the University; it’s been very good to me and I think I’ve made some contributions. I’ve enjoyed my administrative experience. We’ll see if it is appropriate for me to continue, or for somebody else.”
Yudof’s plan also adds two new positions, the vice president for human resources and the vice president for agricultural policy. Carol Carrier, who is currently associate vice president in human resources, and Michael Martin, dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, will temporarily hold the two positions.
But national searches to fill these positions will take place soon, said Yudof. Carrier and Martin, who will continue to serve as dean of the agricultural college, will also have the opportunity to reapply for the vice president positions.
Yudof, who is on vacation, was unavailable for comment. However, Brown said these changes in personnel were not based on the performance of current administrators.
“Most of the changes are more because it’s a new administration,” Brown said. “He wants to form an administration according to his own vision.”
One top administrator whose future is still unclear is Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Marvin Marshak.
If Yudof’s plan is approved, Marshak’s position will be eliminated, along with the positions of provost for Professional Studies and provost for Arts, Sciences and Engineering.
Marshak, who has been a key player in several of the University’s top administrative issues since he took the job last year, is expected to continue as a top administrator in a different position. But Yudof and Marshak have both said no plans have been finalized.
“There’s a hope that there could be a position available for (Marshak) in the new administration,” Brown said.
Marshak, however, said that he really hasn’t decided what he will be doing come July 1. He has expressed interest both in keeping a top administrative position and, alternatively, in focusing more on teaching and research.
“There are good things and bad things about both,” he said.
“I personally find teaching and research very rewarding,” Marshak said. “If I can do something that positively affects the University, that’s a good thing, too.”
Marshak, who is also a tenured physics professor, said although discussions about a possible position have taken place, nothing has been decided by either Yudof or himself.
“My position right now is I could go either way,” he said. “So we’ll see.”
To take over the responsibilities of the eliminated positions, Yudof’s plan would create one post called the executive vice president and provost.
This position would oversee budgeting and planning for all academic programs, as well as supervise all colleges outside of the Academic Health Center.
Yudof has already said he wants current Dean of the College of Education and Human Development Robert Bruininks for the job.
“You want someone who is familiar with the day-to-day operations of running a school and managing a school and dealing with policy and budget type issues,” Brown said. “(Bruininks) brings that experience to the table.”
Bruininks said he felt this was an important factor in Yudof’s decision.
Having served as dean of the school since 1991, Bruininks said he also has experience with faculty governance, a necessity for this type of administrative job.
But Bruininks also said that despite his experience, he expects that the job will not be easy.
“It’s obviously a very challenging job but one that also offers rich opportunities to make a difference at the life of the University,” Bruininks said. “For that reason, I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation.”
Bruininks and several other key administrators in Yudof’s plan are already working at the University. Some administrators have expressed surprise that Yudof has not brought more administrators to fill positions from the University of Texas-Austin, where he currently serves as provost and executive vice president.
To date, the only fellow Longhorn coming to the University with him is Brown.
She said Yudof wants to follow normal procedures by opening up a search process for the positions, looking at all options.
“But I do think that possibly, during some of the searches, you might find some applications from some people from Texas,” Brown said.
Yudof, who will take over for University President Nils Hasselmo on July 1, also said he wanted to set up his central administration in this fashion because he wants more administrators reporting directly to him.
“Things will run more from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down,” Brown said. “I think this system will allow that new flow to take place more efficiently.”
The current provost system was created in 1994 by Hasselmo. Prior to 1994, vice provosts and vice presidents oversaw deans and reported to Hasselmo.
The regents will vote on whether to approve Yudof’s plan this Thursday at their meeting in Duluth. If approved, the administrative restructuring will take effect July 1.

— Staff Reporter Kamariea Forcier contributed to this article.