Yudof leaves mixed legacy after nearly five-year tenure

Sarah Brennan/File
UC President Mark Yudolf (center) will be retiring at the end of August.

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UC President Mark Yudof announced Friday in a statement that he will step down at the end of August.

Yudof cited “taxing health issues” and a desire to “make a change in (his) professional lifestyle” as reasons for the departure. After leaving, he will return to teaching law at UC Berkeley.

Yudof, the first president to be hired from outside of the system since 1899, has left his mark on the university in many ways. He was a constitutional scholar, cigar lover and the first UC president with an olive blend.

He was hired in 2008 to replace former president Robert Dynes. Months after arriving, Yudof faced a plummeting economy and huge cuts in state funding for higher education. Under his watch, the university nearly doubled tuition, making Yudof hugely unpopular among protesters and legislators alike.

“Today, I hope we finally begin a new chapter at the University of California,” said state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, in a statement. “Unfortunately, under President Yudof’s leadership, students and workers unfairly suffered while top executives got wealthier.”

Yudof earns a base salary of $591,084 according to the UC Office of the President. Once he steps down in August, he will have become eligible after five years to collect $230,000 from his pension from the university.

With the release of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, the UC system’s fiscal future appears to be improving. After years of cuts to state appropriations for higher education, Brown for the first time offered an increase of $250 million in funding for university.

“Now, it appears the storm has been weathered,” Yudof said, referring to the UC system’s fiscal troubles, in a statement Friday. “We are not fully in the clear, but we are much closer than we were even a few months ago.”

In an effort to keep a UC education affordable, Yudof implemented two major programs during his tenure: Project You Can and the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan.

Project You Can, initiated in 2009, aims to raise $1 billion over four years for student scholarships. The Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, also created in 2009, gives additional financial aid to students with incomes less than $80,000 a year. The plan provides aid on top of Pell and Cal Grants to fully cover all UC fees.

Before coming to California, Yudof was chancellor of the University of Texas system from 2002 to 2008 and the president of the University of Minnesota from 1997 to 2002. Before that, he was on the faculty of University of Texas at Austin for 26 years, serving as dean of the law school, executive vice president of the university and provost.

Pursuant to UC policy, the regents will now form a special committee to conduct a nationwide search for qualified applicants to replace Yudof. That committee will consult with other UC stakeholders, finally recommending nominees to the board for approval at a later date.

In addition to Yudof, two other leaders of California higher education systems left this year. Charles Reed, chancellor of the California State University system, was replaced in December; and California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott retired in September.

Jacob Brown is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected].