Mark Yudof

Brian Bakst

University of Texas at Austin Provost and Executive Vice President Mark Yudof did not have many fans among faculty when he took his current position two years ago.
Many viewed the Philadelphia-native-turned-Texan as a business-minded egotist who couldn’t relate to current issues in academia.
But Yudof quickly proved his critics wrong by applying faculty input to programmatic decisions, and shifting decisionmaking power from central administration to the department and college levels. Now many of his former critics at the school can hardly find anything bad to say about him.
Alan Cline, who heads the faculty advisory council for the 15 University of Texas campuses, was one of many faculty members that needed time to adjust to Yudof in the new role. “He’s got some edges that people who don’t know him probably don’t understand,” Cline said. “And in the beginning I think I did misunderstand him.”
Yudof found himself in familiar territory when he threw his name into the fray at Minnesota.
For the third time in the past two years, Yudof has found his name on the short list to fill the top-job vacancy at a Big Ten University. After being pegged as a finalist at the University of Illinois and the University of Iowa, Yudof chose not to leave the Lone Star State and withdrew his name from consideration at those schools.
His last-minute exits have led some to question whether he will ride the University’s search to its end. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Yudof, his colleagues say, but they insist he is determined to move up the ladder and take a top position somewhere.
“We have to accept the fact that many of our top administrators are going to be given other job offers,” said University of Texas student body president Jeff Tsai. “It’s a testament to what they’re doing here.”
Despite his active participation in the University’s search process thus far, Yudof has yet to make his intentions clear. He has declined to comment on his status until he comes to campus in December for public interviews.
But following the announcement that he is one of three people being seriously considered for the University presidency, Yudof said in an article in the Daily Texan, “You need a willing buyer and a willing seller. But I’m very happy here.”
Tsai said he thinks Yudof would pull out of the process if he decided he wasn’t a good fit for the University. “He is a pretty honest guy,” Tsai said. “If he felt he would not best suit Minnesota, he would drop out.”
Yudof earned both his bachelor and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania before taking a teaching position at Texas in 1971. Since then Yudof has worked his way up through the ranks to become the second in command at Texas’ flagship school.
Yudof headed Texas’ law school for ten years before stepping into the role of provost. Coincidentally, Robert Berdahl, the man who beat out Yudof for the university’s presidency in 1992, appointed him to the number-two position in 1994.
As both the law school dean and provost, Yudof has faced challenges similar to those he would confront if hired by the University. Much like in Minnesota, Texas legislators pressed the university to update its tenure code this year to meet current financial demands.
The university regents fulfilled the state’s request less than two weeks ago by passing a post-tenure performance review process as the crux of a revised tenure code. Texas professors protested the changes, arguing that reviewing faculty every five years will only add more bureaucracy to the university.
While Yudof was at the helm in the law school, a landmark affirmative action lawsuit surfaced that was finally resolved this spring. Cheryl Hopwoood sued the school, saying she was denied admittance because she was white and the university needed to fill minority quotas.
After a four-year court battle, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school couldn’t use race as an admission standard. Yudof, a staunch supporter of affirmative action, warned that the ruling could reverberate throughout the country, overruling a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, halting any national effects, but leaving the ruling intact for the Texas-Louisiana region.
As provost, Yudof’s quest for a diversified school has remained strong and would coincide well with University 2000, University President Nils Hasselmo’s restructuring plan that cites increased diversity as one of its tenets. Currently, about a quarter of Texas’ 48,000 students are minorities. In comparison, about 11 percent of the University’s students are minorities.
In Texas, Yudof has established his own university improvement plan, called Compact 2000. The plan involves deans, department heads and administrators working together to set benchmarks and goals that are used in budgetary decisions. The program decentralizes academic decisions and attempts to avoid the top-down management philosophy.
“Every indication I have is that it is a system that has worked quite well to date,” said Ed Sharpe, the school’s vice president for administration and public affairs. Sharpe added the program has been effective in helping the school establish priorities.
Setting specific goals and priorities is especially crucial for Yudof’s university as it vies for funding in a state with another major research institution in Texas A&M. Approximately 25 percent of this year’s $885 million budget for the Austin campus comes from the state. The budget for the 15-school University of Texas is close to $4.5 billion, Sharpe said.
Minnesota’s Board of Regents forwarded its $580 million-per-year budget request in October, which asks the state to become 50-50 partners with the University. The University’s share will come from research grants, donations and tuition revenues.
Yudof’s knack for fund-raising helped him triple Texas’ law school’s endowments during his ten years as dean. Minnesota’s Law School Dean E. Thomas Sullivan knows Yudof and is aware of his fund-raising successes through law associations in which both men are involved. Sullivan added that Yudof is known to be popular with Texas legislators.
If the University’s regents decide Yudof is the best choice to succeed Hasselmo, they might have to ante up to lure Yudof from Texas. As second in command, he makes $198,000 per year in addition to a $48,000-per-year housing allowance and $8,500 car allowance. Hasselmo makes $178,000 per year and lives in the presidential mansion at Eastcliff.
But if people at Texas have their way, salary won’t ever become an issue.
“We don’t have any plans of giving him up,” Tsai said. “We like him here in Texas, we’re going to try to get him to stay.”