UC prez spells out vision for chancellor
October 31, 2008
By Dave Jones
Mark G. Yudof says he will do nothing more important as UC president than pick new campus leaders, as he is doing now for UC Davis. And, as for the economic crisis that has already cost the systemwide budget nearly $150 million, Yudof does not believe it will scare away applicants.
"My gut tells me we should not have trouble getting really qualified people," Yudof said in a media briefing Oct. 24, a day after meeting on the Davis Campus with students, staff, faculty, administrators and others to get the ball rolling in the search for a new chancellor.
"This university has zoomed up through the rankings in the last two decades, particularly under Larry's leadership," said Yudof, referring to Larry Vanderhoef, who announced last June that he would step down at the end of the 2008-09 academic year.
Yudof hopes to go to the Board of Regents in March to ask for approval of his choice for chancellor -- likely to be the first one to be appointed since Yudof became UC president last June.
In his briefing with the media last week, he talked about what he is looking for in a new chancellor, and summarized what he heard in a daylong series of meetings Oct. 23 with Vanderhoef; the Council of Vice Chancellors; the Council of Deans; the Academic Senate's Executive Council; the Academic Federation's Executive Council; staff representatives; and undergraduate, graduate and professional school representatives.
Each of these constituency groups met privately with Yudof and the advisory committee that he appointed to assist in the search for Vanderhoef's replacement. He is in his 15th year as chancellor, and he previously served as provost and executive vice chancellor for 10 years.
Yudof said a committee like this will usually forward a list of three or four names, after which "I would make some more additional calls and ponder it, and call people at Davis, and touch base with the regents on the committee and other committee members (and) then finally I would make a recommendation to the Board of Regents."
"With a lot of work, and hopefully some luck, we'd be in a position hopefully by March to make a recommendation to the Board of Regents, hoping to have someone in place some time over the summer, accommodating Chancellor Vanderhoef's proposed transition."
Among faculty and administrators who met with the advisory committee, Yudof said, there did not appear to be unanimity on whether the new chancellor should come from within or outside UC Davis. Faculty members heavily favored an outsider, Yudof said, while at least one dean wanted an insider "who understands how we work."
For his part, Yudof said: "I don't have a set answer to that. I think it's part of the pluses and minuses that you add up. Is it good to have someone who understands the campus and has been there 20 years? Of course. Is there a danger that that person will be committed to things that should be reexamined? Of course.
"I'm just going to look at what I'll describe as the whole profile of pluses and minuses. I didn't get the feeling there's unanimity on this issue, to be honest."
As for the new chancellor's academic background, Yudof said he has no litmus test. "They could be in engineering, they could be in agriculture, they could be in the humanities. ... But it just doesn't work well for a great institution like Davis if they lack that sort of academic bona fides."
Yudof said he would have difficulty choosing his top three from all the attributes that he will look for in the new UC Davis chancellor but, beyond academic stature, he noted these two:
-- "You need someone who knows how to run a large-scale organization. You know there are many successful people in life who don't know how to do that. I mean you could be a brilliant committee chair in Congress, but it doesn't mean that you can run a university with a, you know, a $2 billion budget and thousands of employees and tens of thousands of students. You have to have the capacity to keep the place running and make some difficult decisions about budgets.
"And then ... equally important, maybe a little bit harder to tie down, sometimes it goes under the heading of vision (or) creativity ... a sense of strategic direction for the campus. Some people would call it leadership."
He said the committee will consider: "Would they be a good fundraiser? Would they be collaborative and inclusive? Would they work well with the faculty senate and with staff members? Will they show a good public face in Washington and Sacramento? All the things that you might expect them to think about."
Yudof elaborated on UC Davis' "zoom" through the rankings:
"You look at the research profile, the admissions profile. You look at the progress that's been made on the medical school ... it was a county hospital at one time, now it's a distinguished medical center. The law school has done very well. The veterinary medicine school is legendary. ... I think there should be a lot of people who are interested in this job."
And, if the chosen candidate has qualms about California and university finances, Yudof said he would use "market jargon" as an enticement: "The fundamentals are great, at Davis (and) these are not great times, but this too shall pass."
He said he also would tell the chosen candidate: "You won't be blamed for the budget cuts, (because) they're not your doing. (And) I don't have an exact schedule, but in five years you'll be able to move Davis up to the next level."
Yudof admitted to thriving on adversity, saying that he has a philosophy that "sometimes a crisis is a terrible thing to waste," meaning there may be opportunity in the fiscal crisis.
The UC president also noted the economic downtown is a "national phenomenon," so there is no port in the storm. "If you think Massachusetts or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or Florida or Texas is in dramatically better shape, it just ain't so."
- President Yudof shares his impressions of UC Davis and what the campus is looking for in a new chancellor.
- THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
- More about the search for a new chancellor, including a way for you to offer input.
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