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Yudof picked as new leader of UC

The University of Texas chief's annual compensation will be $828,084, which triggers some criticism.

March 28, 2008|Larry Gordon | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark G. Yudof, the head of the University of Texas system, was formally hired Thursday to be the next president of the University of California and given a $828,084 annual compensation package that triggered protests from some students and employees.

The Board of Regents voted unanimously to hire Yudof, and its chairman, Richard C. Blum, said the $591,084 base salary and $237,000 in supplemental pension payments and other benefits next year were what the competitive marketplace demanded for such a top-flight academic and manager. That would be nearly double what his predecessor, Robert C. Dynes, receives but only about 12% more than Yudof's $742,000 package in Texas.

"He's expensive, but he's worth it," said Blum, who added that UC did not want to get into a bidding war in case Texas tried hard to keep Yudof.

UC officials acknowledged that the 10-campus system had been battered in recent years by reports of secretive and overly lavish compensation for executives, but they insisted that reforms are underway that will reduce bureaucratic costs. Yudof's pay was cleared with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders; regents said they expect any controversy over pay will quiet down as Yudof finds ways to make UC administration more efficient.

Yudof, 63, declined to comment directly on his pay but said he was well aware of the state's budget woes and pledged to do whatever he could to keep fee increases as small as possible for the system's 220,000 students. The regents are considering raising undergraduate fees as much as 10% for next year.

"We'll get though this," Yudof said. "It may be tough. I'm not denying that. But in the long run, this is a very healthy university system with very high standards. Yes, there could be some reversals in the short term, but in the long term I think everything will go much better."

Yudof's pay package makes him one of the country's most highly compensated leaders at a public university. His compensation could go as high as $866,000 in future years, depending on supplemental pension payments. In addition, he will be eligible for a regular retirement benefit of $97,000.

Jelger Kalmijn, president of the UC systemwide University Professional and Technical Employees union, said such a large UC system presidential pay raise "is really a kick in the stomach" to many employees.

The regents are following a corporate pay model that does not fit a public school, said Kalmijn, whose union represents more than 12,000 lab and medical workers, among others. Yudof seems well qualified, Kalmijn said, but most UC staffers "want someone who is committed to public service in California. We don't want someone who is committed to making lots of money."

Louise Hendrickson, president of the UC Student Assn., said many students will be unhappy with Yudof's pay. Yet Hendrickson, who met with Yudof on Thursday, said student leaders were "cautiously optimistic" about his leadership and would hold him to "very high expectations" given the price tag.

Yudof, a legal scholar, has led the 15-campus Texas system since 2002 and was president of the University of Minnesota before that.

Although no firm date was set, he is expected to start his UC job this summer, succeeding Dynes, who received $421,000 last year.

Yudof, Philadelphia-born and son of an electrician, said it won't be easy to leave Texas and joked about how he will miss easy access to breakfast tacos. But he said he could not resist the chance to lead what he called the greatest public university "in the world."

"When push came to shove, I decided this was the place to be," he told reporters.

In Texas, Yudof pushed accountability standards with more student testing and more measures of faculty productivity. On Thursday, he quoted former New York City Mayor Ed Koch's favorite query, "How am I doing?" and said he would apply that to UC.

"I think the university has to be able to answer that question. And it can't be just that 'we're great.' You have to demonstrate that you are getting the job done, that you are accountable to the taxpayers, to the board of regents, to the students, to the parents for what you do," he said.

Yudof would not be the highest paid UC employee. Dozens of medical school professors with clinical practices and some sports coaches earn more. UCLA's new head football coach, Rick Neuheisel, is to get $1.25 million plus potentially large bonuses, according to a campus spokesman. And many top private research universities pay salaries similar to or more than Yudof's.

Some national experts in higher education say his pay reflects marketplace reality. Public universities compete for executives with top private universities that tend to have bigger endowments and more flexibility.

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