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Turnover in Top Leadership Leaves Yale in Muddle

June 1, 1992

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Four top offices at Yale University will soon be filled by novices just as the school has embarked on a huge and urgently needed fund-raising campaign.

Few doubt the 291-year-old institution, alma mater of Presidents Taft and Bush and traditional rival of Harvard and Princeton, will emerge with its greatness and traditions intact.

But many worry that Yale’s stalled attempts to deal with its budget problems, and a $1.5 billion, five-year fund drive launched just this month, will suffer from the turmoil at the top.

″Of the top four academic posts at Yale, there will be no one with any experience in that job,″ said Stephanie Plasse, a senior and editor of the Yale Daily News. ″It’s a little unnerving.″

President Benno C. Schmidt Jr. announced abruptly last week he is leaving to run a proposed network of for-profit schools. The provost and undergraduate deans also resigned recently. The provost’s job was filled by the graduate school dean, creating a fourth vacancy.

Schmidt, 50, a constitutional law scholar and former Columbia Law School dean, improved relations with the city of New Haven, helped the university avoid an employee strike and assisted in raising $600 million, or 40 percent of the fund-raising campaign’s goal, in the two years before it officially started.

″The big worry to me is what is going to happen to the fund-raising campaign,″ said Fred Robinson, an English professor.

Yale, like universities throughout the country, has been squeezed by rising costs, a slowdown in the growth of federal funding and a need to keep tuition increases down.

Stanford University is facing a $24 million deficit in its $442 million operating budget for 1992-93. Columbia University has projected a $15 million deficit in its estimated $950 million operating budget.

Yale is facing a $15 million deficit in this year’s $800 million operating budget, its first deficit in a decade, and also must spend up to $1 billion over the next decade renovating its neo-Gothic buildings.

In February, a committee established by the president and provost proposed the elimination of two academic departments, drastic cutbacks in two others and an overall reduction of about 11 percent of the arts and sciences faculty.

Outsiders praised the initiative, but the faculty rebelled and Schmidt backed off. He said a 5 percent reduction in the faculty would be sufficient, and put off acting on the proposal to cut departments.

Bob Rosenzweig, president of the Association of American Universities, said schools with large deferred-maintenance bills, such as Yale and Columbia, appear to be having the most serious problems.

″But these are fundamentally very strong institutions. There is no reason they should not continue to be strong,″ he said.

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