UPDATE: A true moderate Republican UW President might be in a position to use moral persuasion to tether the red balloon of what I hope is still a rational remnant of the Evans’ political era.

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah’s Young chosen for top post at University of Washington

Young, if he is the person in the smoke, has a number of intriguing features that we will certainly hear more about in coming days.  To start with, Michael Young seems very different from Mark Emmert.  When Emmert got here we, the faculty, wondered about the man’s lack of academic credentials.  Leaving all  else aside, this lack of prior personal achievement achievement outside of academic bureaucracy, meant President Emmert lacked critical credibility.  Young has  a record that would make him a catch even as a UW Law prof. :

  • 1. He has  experience in government, academic activity, university leadership, and government.
  • 2. He is or has been very active as a moderate Republican .. an unusual merit badge these days when so many in that party are teetering on the edge of Tea Party extremism.
    Contrary to the image of a Republican, Young has urged members of the Mormon church to join the ACLU and support religious freedom.
  • 3. He has extraordinary credentials in Japanese and Korean law, perhaps a sign that he might be interested in building bridges across the Pacific.

So, if the rumors are true, it would be good to hear President Young’s views on many things.

I suspect the most important issue may be governance.  Given the budget challenges he will face, Young is going to need support from the faculty.  The faculty, however, is a complex and poorly defined political target.  The Faculty Senate has ..on paper .. a great deal of power, but in practice does little to assert that power.  Activists, especially on upper campus, see a faculty union as the answer to this failure.  I have been told that Utah faculty see Young as a coming from from a  strong tradition of collaboration between the Faculty Senate and his administration.

Young’s association with GW Bush may also be a plus.  Here in the land of the Sasquatch, perhaps President Young could be the mythical and much missed “Dan Evans Republican?”  A moderate and rational Republican and a University President might be in a position to use moral persuasion to tether the red balloon of what I hope is still a rational remnant of the Evans’ political era.   Moreover, Young, as a non politician conservative, might be an interesting position to influence people like Steve Balmer and other local business types who have stayed out of Republican politics but also not yet done much in  the philanthropic scene.

I also wonder whether Young’s Salt Lake City and Mormon origins might shed light on Western Governors University. WGU is a real threat to the quality of our state higher ed system.  It is also, however, an enterprise created with extensive support from the Mormon community. It would seem likely that a veteran of university and government politics would know a lot more WGU.

In the same spirit, I suspect that Mr. Young will have strong views on privatization of the UW itself.  Given the way he has built the University of Utah, Michale Young hardly seems the type to accept a degradation of this place.  I worry that the model of UW Bothell and Tacoma, more like state colleges than like the UW Seattle or WSU, is a prelude to a bad idea that Washington State can serve more kids by downgrading the quality of our offerings.  This is not a criticism of the faculty at these branches, but of the misplaced idea that one can replace a great university  with a campus focused on community college transfers.  The only answer seems to me to be privatization and Young could be the kind of leader needed to achieve that or even find a solution that preserves access for Washington State’s kids to a world class education.

The best part of all this, there is no doubt that this man is no Mark Emmert.


from the President’s website, University of Utah,
KSL.COM and  from a post at  at the Seattle Examiner,

(ed. my emphasis)

Young is a practicing Mormon, descended from Brigham Young’s brother, Lorenzo Dow Young. That religious heritage might score him some points with conservatives in this state, but he also has been a force for tolerance and diversity on the campus. He is said to be very hard-working, warm, and even able to bring consensus to a law-school faculty.

President Young is a graduate of Brigham Young University (B.A., 1973) and Harvard Law School (J.D., 1976), where he served as a note Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

From 1978 to 1998, he was the Fuyo Professor of Japanese Law and Legal Institutions and Director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies, the Center for Korean Legal Studies, and the Project on Religion, Human Rights and Religious Freedom at Columbia University. Prior to joining the Columbia University faculty, President Young served as a Law Clerk to the late Chief (then Associate) Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Young served as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1998-2005 and chaired the Commission on two occasions. He was also appointed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist to the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission. He is widely recognized not only for his academic work on Japanese law and international trade, but also for his tireless advocacy on behalf of international human rights.

UW Law Professor Stewart Jay, a UW law professor clerked at the Supreme Court at the same time as Young . Despite Young’s  conservative roots, t Jay said in an email, (to the Seattle Times)  that he doubts “that (Young’s) personal views will have much effect on his presidency. He always struck me as a straight-shooter.”

Speaking at Brigham Young University, Young said religious freedom is about free will and agency:

“Religion is like everything else, it is like a hobby — an interest group with a particular faith, but somebody else may choose to want to make the highway safe for bicycles. And they are pretty much equivalent.”

“We should be among the most passionate civil libertarians in the world …”we all ought to be members of the ACLU.”

Young also quoted one scholar who wrote (during the Proposition 8 campaign in California that defined marriage as between a woman and a man):

“Religious participation in the political process can produce dangerous results. Fervent beliefs fueled by suppressed fear are easily transformed into movements of intolerance, repression, hate and persecution.”

Young said the district court judge looking at Proposition 8 said, in essence, that religious arguments in favor of Proposition 8 could not be used as a justification for that law.

Young said this argument likens religion to corporate entities. It holds that religions, like corporations, are usually motivated by money and power and are prone to socially harmful behavior and misconduct and need to be regulated heavily. Religions endanger social justice, harmony and diversity.

Michael Young  has also served as a member of the Committee on International Judicial Relations of the Judicial Conference of the United States, as well as a member of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

During the administration of President George W Bush, President Young served as Ambassador for Trade and Environmental Affairs (1992-93), Deputy Under Secretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs (1991-93) and Deputy Legal Adviser to the U.S. Department of State (1989-91).

In 2010 Young sought a divorce from his wife of 38 years, Suzan. He filed his petition Friday in 3rd District Court.  Suzan Young is the executive director of The Tanner Lectures on Human Values at the U. The petition cites “irreconcilable differences” but does not provide specifics. The couple has three adult children.

The Utah  Board of Trustees reiterated its confidence in the president and his job performance. Randy Dryer, the chairman of the University of Utah’s board of trustees , said Young enjoys the board’s “complete and unequivocal support.” Dryer cited Young’s role in steering the U.’s entrance into the Pac-10 as evidence that the president was handling his duties well.

Unlike his predecessor Mark Emmert, Michael Young is a  scholar,  published extensively on a broad range of topics, including the Japanese legal system, dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, labor relations, the legal profession, comparative law, industrial policy, international trade law, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), international environmental law and international human rights and freedom of religion.  LINK TO YOUNG’s PUBLICATIONS.

Young’s academic specialties in Japanese law, human rights issues, international trade, and international environmental law — all a good match for UW strengths and orientations.  Even aside from becoming the President, Young  would be a “catch” as a Professor of Law!

In a letter to incoming students at Utah, Michael Young wrote:

….––we need to ensure that future generations are skilled in the art of extended learning to handle the ever-changing world we live in. I am proud of the University for its unique and extraordinary vision and focus. As one of the world’s preeminent research universities, we aim not only to teach what is “now,” but also offer a hands-on approach to what “will be,” providing all who seek to learn with a truly transformative educational experience, not just simple book smarts.

Our outstanding community of world-class scholars and researchers do not merely teach, they “do”­­––taking their extraordinary work and innovation from the labs to the classroom, engaging students in ways a traditional school cannot afford. It is this collaboration of thoughtful creativity and profound discovery that fuels the very special learning environment we have at the U. As a result, our students, now representing over 110 countries from across the globe, continue to reach new heights of excellence both locally and on the world stage, bringing honor to the University through exemplary scholarship and service.


0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. barbi #

    ST: KSL-TV and the Deseret News in Salt Lake City reported Friday that in the past two weeks, UW officials had contacted several people connected to the University of Utah for reference checks on Young, citing people familiar with the matter.Those contacted included a trustee, a prominent business leader and a former university administrator.
    b: The UW did not make contact with any faculty?

  2. DK #

    See what salary the (often tone deaf) regents decide to give him. Given that he is already at the $750K level it is likely to be much higher, further alienating the legislators who have to explain to their constituents why tuition is going up so much.

  3. Roger Rabbit #

    Yeah, well, he’s an academic and Emmert wasn’t and that by itself should make a difference. I’m not sure what kind of difference; but what’s certain is that things will change in some way.

  4. John Gallant #

    As a point of information, Nobelist Mario Capecchi has been on the University of Utah since 1973. He is a member of a sizeable group of very accomplished geneticist/molecular biologists (including Ray Gesteland, Sandy Parkinson, John Atkins, until a few years ago John Roth, and others) who joined the University over 30 years ago. Dr. Capecchi has been a Howard Hughes Investigator since 1988. Credit for the buildup of Utah’s molecular biology contingent should go, if anywhere other than to the scientists themselves, to UU’s admistration in the 1970s.

    Dr. Young became president of the University of Utah in 2004.

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