Campus reaction to pres. finalists positive

By Lisa Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Business backgrounds could help in coping with $43M budget cuts

The strong background in business shared by all four UA presidential candidates could prove beneficial for the university's future, especially in the wake of decreased state funding, students and faculty said yesterday.

With more than $43 million in state budget cuts, it will be valuable for the next leader to have an understanding of finances to address issues like tuition hikes and growth management, said Elaine Ulrich, an optical sciences graduate student and president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

"The university is facing a lot of financial challenges right now, so being able to effectively run this enterprise and finance it is something any university president will have to deal with," said Ulrich.

Managing finances isn't new to any of the candidates, two of whom are employed as provost at other institutions and two employed as deans of respected business schools.

Tom Campbell is a former California state finance director and is now a dean and professor of business at the University of California, Berkeley. Deborah Freund, the provost at Syracuse University, is also a distinguished professor of public administration and economics.

Yash Gupta is dean of the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, where he is also a professor of operations management. Robert Shelton is the executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was also vice provost at University of California, Davis.

Because all of the candidates already have a lot of experience working with finances, it will be easier for them to understand and work on academic budgeting, said Provost George Davis.

Joel Valdez, senior vice president of business affairs, said he's glad the committee has a pool of candidates who have business experience and agreed it will be a helpful skill for the next president.

But students like Paige Howard, a creative writing freshman, wish the candidates had more experience in other disciplines.

"It's not good to have all business candidates," Howard said. "It doesn't represent the diverse and creative fields that we have on campus, which would have brought something new to the UA."

While few candidates have vast experience in fields like fine arts and humanities, with the exception of Freund who has a bachelor's degree in classics, Davis said it doesn't mean any would be narrow-minded regarding the academic missions of the 120 different campus programs.

"No president will come equipped with degrees in a sufficient number of areas to map across the many disciplines," Davis said. "I think there's an abundance of evidence that these individuals are broad and have multiple facets."

Alfred Kaszniak, head of the psychology department, said he isn't disappointed that not many candidates have a strong emphasis on social and behavioral sciences because the real issue is what they have in mind for the future of the UA.

"I recommend colleagues to judge less on specific backgrounds and focus more on the candidates' quality of ideas," said Kaszniak, who is also a psychology professor.

Charles Tatum, College of Humanities dean, would not comment.

Though it's important the next president have good ideas for the university's academic missions, it makes the most sense for the candidates to have business experience because the university itself is one big business, said Weston Westenborg, an undeclared freshman.

And having a president who worked in business and finances will also bring a different kind of perspective to the university, said Phil Charles, a business and economics junior.

"Business is about politics," Charles said. "A person who works in business sees how the dynamics of the two work together."

But there are still many questions that need to be asked, Ulrich said, especially regarding issues like diversity, domestic partner benefits, strategic planning, and their feelings on the mix of undergrads and graduate students at the UA.

Ulrich, who is on the Shared Governance Review and will help interview the candidates tomorrow and next week, said she encourages students and faculty to take advantage of the community forums to learn more about each candidate's goals.

Students can attend a forum tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. in the Student Union Memorial Center North Ballroom, where Shelton will be answering questions. The faculty forum is in the same location and begins at 3:30 p.m.