Regents Face Tough Choices in Selecting UC Leader : Education: Insiders and outsiders, some with strong ties to the nine-campus system, are reported among the candidates for the top post.


An insider, an outsider or someone in between? That is one of the questions facing the University of California as the nine-campus system searches for a new president.

The UC Board of Regents could choose a proven insider if it decides that its financial crisis demands a well-connected UC veteran as president. Knowledgeable sources within and outside UC say that Charles E. Young, who has been UCLA's chancellor for 23 years, would be a likely in-house choice.

"When institutions are under stress . . . there is a strong tendency to look for someone who can hit the ground running, who doesn't have to learn the culture of the institution," a well-placed higher education official said, explaining why Young is often discussed as a contender.

Other insiders reportedly being considered are UC San Diego Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson and UC Davis Chancellor Theodore L. Hullar.

However, several outsiders, some with strong UC ties in the past, might also fit the bill, sources said.

"You can rest assured that arguments are going on, with some people saying that it's time . . . for innovation and fresh air," said a state education official.

Among the outside candidates reportedly under consideration are: William P. Gerberding, the University of Washington's president since 1979 and a former executive vice chancellor at UCLA; David Hamburg, president of the Carnegie Corp. of New York, an educational foundation, and former director of health policy research at Harvard University, and Donald Swain, president of the University of Louisville in Kentucky since 1981 and a former UC Berkeley professor who rose to academic vice president of the UC system.

A special search committee of nine regents and Gov. Pete Wilson, who is an ex-officio regent, is scheduled to meet today in San Francisco, with another meeting scheduled next month. The full Board of Regents is expected to make a final decision by June.

The committee, aided by a faculty advisory group, has received about 200 nominations. Jacques S. Yeager, a UC regent and Riverside construction company executive who chairs the nomination committee, declined to discuss the search.

Citing an exemption to the state's Open Public Meetings Act, the panel is meeting privately to screen and interview candidates and does not intend to disclose the finalists' names. In contrast, the Cal State system last year made public the names of three finalists before choosing Barry Munitz as chancellor.

Aware that speculation about candidates could backfire or prove embarrassing, none of the officials interviewed wanted to comment on the record about possible successors to UC President David P. Gardner, who is to retire Oct. 1 after nine years on the job.

But in most interviews with officials, UCLA's Young is mentioned--either in pleased anticipation or private hopes that his candidacy is shot down quickly.

The most senior UC chancellor, Young "is enormously respected all around the country and he knows where the bodies are buried," said a national education leader, who suggested that Young's candidacy "has got to be strong." In addition to helping cement UCLA's excellent reputation in academics and sports, Young is very knowledgeable about Sacramento politics, important in the tough budgetary climate.

According to several sources, Young wants the UC presidency and has allies lobbying for him. Young declined to be interviewed, but his spokeswoman, Darlene Doriot Skeels, said the frequent mentioning of Young's name "is not surprising. Given his stature in higher education, it would be only natural if his name came up."

But some UC watchers say that Young is too abrasive and his image too wrapped up in sports, contrasted with Gardner's courtly and cerebral style. Plus, they say, Young has acquired enemies for his UCLA boosterism, which some complain has deprived other UC campuses of funds and attention.

Another regent, not on the search committee, said the regents have no preference for insiders but that serious contenders should have some link to UC as a professor or administrator. As an example, the regent pointed to Gardner, a former UC vice president who served as University of Utah's president for a decade before returning to UC as chief.

Yet another regent said he was worried that some excellent candidates might be scared away by the state's fiscal woes and resulting difficulties for the 166,200-student UC system.

"With the financial problems we've got, I don't know who'd want the job," he said, citing the possibility that the next UC president might have to tighten admission standards, close academic programs and raise student fees again.

However, the head of an executive search service that specializes in university presidents said UC would have many contenders because of the job's international prestige. He noted that many universities across the country are experiencing significant economic problems.

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