A former UC Regent faults reporter’s profile of UC President Yudof

by Velma Montoya, Ph.D., UC Regent-emerita

Peter Schrag’s profile of UC president Mark Yudof in San Francisco Modern Luxury deserves an A grade for keeping Yudof happy.  This article could have benefited from enhanced reporting.

First, the Regents never “came calling” to Yudof in Texas.  It is solely UC Regents Chairman Blum who did so.  Blum essentially imposed Yudof on the Board.  Blum meant well, but a number of Regents resented this imposition.  And Yudof made little attempt to overcome this resentment.  Some very powerful Regents were offended that Yudof did not reach out to introduce himself to them.  (In contrast, when Robert Dynes became UC President he made a point to meet and learn the concerns of every Regent on his/her home turf, showing up for lunch with me at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel even though I had only about a year left in my term).  And now that Blum is no longer Chairman, some Regents admit they were unwilling to confront Blum’s method or choice of Yudof because they wished to remain in the good graces of Blum’s U.S. Senator wife.

Second, there’s lots of contrary evidence that Yudof left Minnesota and Texas universities “bigger and grander than when he came.”  In particular, Minnesotans were happy that Yudof’s leavetaking meant they could finally find a university president who would consider building them a football stadium, and a quick search of University of Texas professors’ association sites offers myriad reasons why they were happy to see Yudof go.  The Texas professors’ sites also predicted a lot of Yudof’s managerial problems at UC.  In other words, evidence here is mixed.

Third, after Dynes was sidelined, UC Provost Wyatt R. Hume served as Acting UC President for almost a year.  It is Hume who led and managed the downsizing of 450-plus people in the UC Office of the President.  Hume made a number of presentations to the Regents during that period about how he was downsizing UCOP.   Indeed, Yudof currently is being criticized for adding back a number of high-paid positions to UCOP.

Fourth, how can Schrag label critics of UC administrators as populist opportunists?   I believe UC Berkeley professor-emeritus Charles Schwartz is sincere in his claims that undergraduate student fees cover undergraduate student education, although I disagree with his finding and methodology.  And UC Santa Cruz Professor and President of the Council of UC Faculty Associations Robert Meister is absolutely correct in reporting that UC has pledged student fees in the repayment of construction bonds.  Whether this is proper or not, I do not know.  UC administrators stonewalled Meister before presenting him with limited answers concerning this practice.

Fifth, I disagree that Yudof inherited an UC administration that was disengaged from the process in Sacramento.  In the opinion of many Regents, UC President Atkinson, External Affairs Vice President Darling and UC Sacramento Office Director Arditti were overly solicitous to Legislative requests.  Apparently Yudof and Schrag are ignorant of the Latino legislators’ leverage over numerous changes in UC admissions policies over the past decade.

Sixth, Yudof’s current push for the federal government to save public research universities is contrary to Yudof’s published statements attributing diminished state support, first, to the aging of the U.S. population, as resources are shifted from education to senior citizens’ other areas of interest, such as health care and security, and, second, to globalization, as multi-national corporations become less tied to specific geographic locations and thus less interested in developing well-educated, local workforces.[1] These arguments explain why UC’s advocacy requests for increased funding from the California Legislature yield limited results.

Finally, like Schrag I find Yudof personally engaging and smart.  And, like Schrag, I question whether UC — and society — can afford a law school at UC Irvine.

[1] Mark Yudof, “Higher Tuitions:  Harbinger of a Hybrid University?,” Change Magazine, March/April 2002.


  1. cloud minder said,

    February 4, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

    but I am glad that I found out today:

    SB 650, which is a reintroduction of SB 219, would provide UC and CSU employees who report waste, fraud and abuse, with the same legal protections as other state employees. Specifically, the bill will ensure that UC and CSU employees can exercise their right to seek damages in court if the university has either reached or failed to reach a decision regarding a complaint within the time limits established by the Regents and Trustees respectively; or if the university has not satisfactorily addressed the complaint within 18 months.

  2. Peter Schrag said,

    February 7, 2010 @ 6:37 am

    I’d just like to say that I was well aware of the Latino caucus’s
    pressure on Atkinson regarding admissions policies — I’ve written
    about it in the past and it was in fact mentioned in the Yudof piece, but tight space forced it out. I also had to leave out the reference to the strong-armed meddling that ex-regent Montoya’s friend Pete Wilson engaged in to get the regents to kill affirmative action policies in UC admission and employment policies in 1995. In any case I don’t see how either episode indicates any particular initiative by UC in Sacramento. As to who downsized UCOP, the original push came from Blum, as I indicated in the piece.

    If Yudof wasn’t the cutter (which I doubt) I hope Ms. Montoya also enlightens the many UCOP employees who were furious at Yudof for either eliminating or moving their jobs and for killing the UC Center in Sacramento (probably a strategically unwise decision in my view). As to Yudof’s departure from Minnesota, most of the contemporary press accounts and comments I read (including Gov. Jesse Ventura’s, who was often Yudof’s nemesis ) were positive. I’m not sure resisting construction of a football stadium is necessarily a black mark against a university president.

    As to her objection to “populist opportunists” — the full statement in my piece is as follows: “Residual distrust from this history (meaning mainly the surreptitious deals with UC executives by prior administrations) has generated an amalgam of sober attacks, paranoia, and populist opportunism that UC officials must spend an inordinate amount of time deflecting.” Maybe Ms. Montoya read my piece a bit hastily.

    Finally, I’m not sure whether Ms. Montoya merely agrees with Yudof’s statements regarding corporate globalization and an aging population explaining declining support of higher education or whether she blames the statement itself for the decline. I assume it’s the former.

  3. cloud minder said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    the UC system is billions of dollars so how could it be small potatoes? re:” the mess in the mother house in Oakland was small potatoes compared with California’s monumen
tally dysfunctional state government”

    why give Blum the voice of moral authority in the piece — when the piece also says: “Beginning in 2005, the Chronicle uncovered and made hay of a series of cushy, under-the-table executive-compensation deals—vacation perks, lavish housing allowances, soft retirement cushions, executive jobs for significant others—some of which even the Regents hadn’t known about”– if the Regents did not know about it — well, then, is Blum really that great?!

    the piece also says “(Birgeneau says that the University of Toronto, which he headed before coming to UC Berkeley, was a far more cosmopolitan place with many foreign students.”– but fails to discuss how Birgeneau left U of Toronto, how the faculty and staff felt about him when he left – it fails to talk about Birgeneau’s cozy relationship with Dynes and Linda Morris Williams and their “scandals” —why mention Birgeneau only in this Toronto comment he makes in his piece?
    the piece also talks about an advocacy campaign- yet many student groups have already made clear they will not be protesting WITH UC administration – but they will be protesting AGAINST UC administration as well. but that is not covered in the piece..

    he describes state legislators: “Lois Wolk, one of the wisest members of that chamber and the wife of 
a retired UC Davis law professor (that’s unbiased journalism for you folks?!)

    mr. schrag did not describe senator yee in the same glowing terms as he did Wolk – gee I wonder if there is an axe to grind or an agenda??..

    “Loni Hancock, also a Democrat” that’s it no other descriptors for Loni– (in the UCOP district!!)

    “The governor, at least, seems to be listening.” Oye Vey! (Arnold vetoed whistle blower rights for UC workers in OCT 2009!!)

    the piece goes on to say “Yee’s fond recollections of his role in the demonstrations at Berkeley’s People’s Park in May 1969 seem like nothing so much as nostalgic association of those days with the sniping at UC now.”

    Yet NO discussion of Yee’s attempts to give UC workers whistleblower rights as many of the CA Sup Crt Justices stated are needed. No in depth discussion of the Berkeley Foundation and auxiliaries billions of dollars.

    and there is this about Yee and Jerry Brown…:
    “he replies that “other things attract people,” that academic quality and reputation are equally important. That thought is eerily reminiscent of former governor Jerry Brown’s oft-quoted remark that university employees enjoy “psychic rewards” and should therefore be satisfied with modest pay.”
    “modest pay”
    and it is not just “psychic rewards” – it is access to silicon valley, to bio tech firms and a very liberal outside consulting policy that the faculty and senior admin take advantage of — really– do some research please!

    no discussion of Yudof’s complaints of being paid more than Obama but not getting to have ” a white house or air force one”

    “as some in state government [e.g., Yee] seek to throttle the 
one institution that
    promises the solution to California’s economic woes.”

    and then the piece ends with Yudof in a white cowboy hat and peter with pom poms in his hand cheering Yudof:

    “If Yudof can keep the wolf packs from UC’s doors for another two or three years, if he can educate and energize his alumni and a lot of other Californians along with them, and if the UC commission’s imagination is equal to the large size-and-shape questions it’s supposed to address, then Yudof may yet have a chance to fulfill the expansive hopes of his friend at Notre Dame. And if he can get the federal government to provide broader support for higher education, then he will have accomplished something historic.”

    I guess disgusted alumni, state senator and an AG seeking reforms and transparency, disgusted staff and students who see all the waste and abuse and have no whistle blower rights etc — they are all just part of the “wolf packs” in Schrag’s mind I guess… oye!!

    the writer does not even challenge this statement or tried to provide some historical documentation of how cali residents have benefitted DIRECTLY or have benefited more than society in general has benefited from UC research etc?! This is a difficult bit of calculus – if the assertion is that the state has only benefited from UC then make that case – but also recognize some of the costs of UC for California residents too!

  4. Emily Montan said,

    February 22, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

    I think Mr. Shrag and DOCTOR Montoya need to speak to staff at UC Office of the President. First, it is true Mr. Hume did begin the layoff process but Mr. Yudof’s former co-hort Katie Lapp finished and did a lot of slashing and burning. Ms. Lapp is now at Harvard University doing the same thing. ( Don’t let her homemade cookies fool you.)

    Lay-offs continue here at Office of the President. The Office of General Counsel continues to hire very expensive consultant attorneys and is laying off support staff as if that would cut their spending. Now that many departments here have been slashed there are inefficiencies and swift responses to campuses no longer exist. UCOP has spent a large percentage of their S&E budget to move over 150 people to different office spaces in the same building. I’m still getting the figures. More high level management is being hired and no unrepresented staff have gotten raises – only furloughs.

    We have a history of hiring consultants who provide recommendations to streamlining business practices and not using the data issued. Recently a retired Director had been taken out of retirement to help conduct a study to ensure that UCOP’s largest liability – the Capital Programs – continues to mitigate risk, streamlines their processes, and provides a good program for the campuses. Few of those recommendations were heeded. This is just a drop in the bucket. Years of OP knowledge are gone. The staff either were encouraged to retire early (Mr. Hume’s plan) or they were laid off. This bodes badly for the next ten years. I could give you more details about Mr. Yudof’s bad behaviors but that’s for another blog.

    I can tell you that we are exhausted and frustrated. We believe in the University and want it to remain a viable public institution of higher learning. We want to provide support and service to the University’s programs by supporting the President. Unfortunately the President doesn’t appear to have the University’s best interests to heart so we are working at cross purposes. Finally, I have to say that the Board of Regents are responsible for hiring Dr. Dynes and Mr. Yudof. Blaming one regent, though he is terrible for the University, and his wife shows a lack of character. Dr. Montoya and the rest of the Board are to blame for both bad regimes and that would have been heartening to read as well.

  5. Milan Moravec said,

    May 4, 2010 @ 11:46 am

    UCB Chancellor Birgeneau Loss of Trust, Credibility

    The UCB budget gap has grown to $150 million, and still the Chancellor is spending money that isn’t there on expensive outside consultants. His reasons range from the need for impartiality to requiring the “innovative thinking, expertise, and new knowledge” the consultants would bring.

    Does this mean that the faculty and management of a world-class research and teaching institution lack the knowledge, impartiality, innovation, and professionalism to come up with solutions? Have they been fudging their research for years? The consultants will glean their recommendations from interviewing faculty and the UCB management that hired them; yet solutions could be found internally if the Chancellor were doing the job he was hired to do. Consultant fees would be far better spent on meeting the needs of students.

    There can be only one conclusion as to why creative solutions have not been forthcoming from the professionals within UCB: Chancellor Birgeneau has lost credibility and the trust of the faculty as well as of the Academic Senate leadership that represents them. Even if the faculty agrees with the consultants’ recommendations – disagreeing might put their jobs in jeopardy – the underlying problem of lost credibility and trust will remain.

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