Chapter on new president isn’t finished

Who would be the best president of the University of Minnesota: Piglet, Tigger or Rabbit?
This is the type of thought that flounders around in the head of a student leader who is a fan of A.A. Milne’s “A House at Pooh Corner,” while he avoids the onset of finals.
Although the question raises an interesting debate about whether a stuffed animal could out-perform a stuffed shirt in Morrill Hall, that is not what this piece is about.
Let me first address why the average student, faculty or staff member should care about who represents the University at receptions and regent meetings.
When I go home this weekend, there will be a roasting turkey, the holiday sounds of Nat King Cole and the scrumptious aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin pie.
It’s Thanksgiving in Minnesota and besides the traditional festivities, I am grateful for my friends, family and central heating. At its best, Thanksgiving serves as our societal chance to reflect on the blessings life has granted us. As a University, there is no question that we have a great deal to be thankful for: students still can afford to come here, faculty still are allowed to teach and there are three strong candidates being considered for University president.
These individuals, two sitting presidents and one provost, are worth more praise and thanks than many have given them.
Thanksgiving, though, serves only as a time to take notice of the people before us. A will to care comes in the next three weeks. After our national moment of giving thanks, we proceed to a month of secular and religious gift giving. We move beyond passive gratitude to active demonstrations of love.
Like most college students, I am short on cash for purchasing the perfect presents for my friends and family. Even so, I will take my little time, little money and great care to create something special for those I love.
This spirit of holiday giving provides each of us the opportunity to ask: What have we done for our University community lately? By this, I am not asking what you have done for the University bureaucracy. I am asking: What have you given to the faculty who dedicate their lives to University excellence, to the staff who continually make our community cleaner, safer and simpler and to groups of students whose growth reminds us why states fund universities?
Beyond our individual course work, many of us will have a hard time identifying something we’ve sacrificed for this community. So here is why, in the spirit of holiday giving, we should care about the new president; our work in the next two weeks will lay the foundation for the University of Minnesota that our children (or grandchildren) will attend.
Before I explain how you can become involved in selecting the new president, it is educational to discuss a little bit about the three recommended candidates. Newspapers have written extensive articles about their backgrounds. Some campus leaders are discussing the importance of their achievements. But there is an essential perspective that has been overlooked. How different are these three candidates from each other? From my perspective, they are dynamically different. In fact, they are so unique that a third-grader could tell them apart.
And now I ask … will the next University president have pink, striped or brown-colored fur?
William Muse, the current president of Auburn University and former president of the University of Akron, reminds me most of Piglet. O gallant Piglet! Ho! Did Piglet tremble? Did he flinch? No, No, he struggled inch by inch. Muse would be a reliable friend to the University, as Piglet was to Pooh. Muse has over 30 years of experience in administration and has proven himself a consistent, honorable leader. What Muse may lack in charisma or desire for massive change, he attempts to offset with basic sound judgment. Piglet sighed with happiness, and began to think about himself. He was BRAVE …
Judith Ramaley, current president of Portland State University and former executive vice president for the University of Kansas, is an energetic creator of vision. She is most similar to Tigger. “It’s a funny thing about Tiggers,” whispered Tigger to Roo, “how Tiggers never get lost.” While her strong sense of direction and experience in urban land-grant institutions is a plus, does Minnesota want someone with her outgoing personality and focus on external support? Tigger faced a similar problem when Rabbit was upset at how Tigger energetically “bounced” on people. If Rabbit was bigger and fatter and stronger, or bigger than Tigger, if Tiger was smaller, then Tigger’s bad habit of bouncing at Rabbit would matter no longer, if Rabbit was taller.
Finally, there is Mark Yudof, provost and former law school dean at the University of Texas-Austin. Yudof is an extraordinary internal manager at Texas and in many ways reminds me of Rabbit, the meticulous organizer. “Rabbit,” Pooh said to himself. “I like talking to Rabbit. He talks about sensible things.”
Yudof is a very bright, wry and sensible leader who would build the University from the inside out. He is the forceful type of leader who directs action. It was going to be one of Rabbit’s busy days … It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It … It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, “Yes, Rabbit” and “No, Rabbit,” and waited until he had told them.
Pooh Bear — a bear of very little brain but very big charm — was NOT a finalist for the position.
And the winner is …
It depends upon what you are willing to give in the next two weeks to influence members of the Board of Regents.
Although I don’t know what the outcome will be, I pray and hope that good people will find time to do good things. My only fear is that the community will wander dazed through this selection process, and that on Dec. 13, the regents will be forced to make a decision based on little or no input from the University community.
Regardless of who the new president is, it is the duty of each leader on campus to make sure the state of Minnesota comes out of this process a winner.
If you have ever criticized University President Nils Hasselmo then you have a reason to be involved. If you have young brothers, sisters, children or grandchildren, you have a reason to be involved. If you value the future of education in Minnesota, you have a reason to be involved.
Here are three simple suggestions for how you can participate:
First, you can write or call members of the Board of Regents and share your thoughts on a new president. Regents’ phone numbers and addresses can be obtained at the regents office (625-6300).
Second, you can write letters to the editor in this newspaper: Make endorsements, ask questions, just make sure you are heard.
Finally, attend the campus interviews with the candidates that are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 9-11.
In each of our lives we make major, often painful, decisions. We search our souls for answers and search the world for solutions. Now, it is your turn to help the University search for its identity.

Matt Musel, a senior in University College, was a member of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, and is past president of the Minnesota Student Association.