More than one year after Vice President of Finance and Administration Joseph Mullinix announced he would leave Yale for the chancellorship of the University of California system, the post he once held remains vacant, leaving some wondering if any ill effects will result from the prolonged search.
Yale President Richard Levin was confident in December that he would find a new vice president before the end of the academic year, but time is running out. The protracted search process — carried out by Levin with the advice of other officers — has elicited feelings of concern from Yale officials, union leaders and others who will work with Mullinix’s successor.
“We’re moving right along,” said Provost Alison Richard, Yale’s chief academic and financial officer. “We’re trying to fill the position as soon as we can.”
While administrative sources have expressed the utmost confidence in Acting Vice President Kemel Dawkins, several Yale officials have not ruled out the possibility that the lack of a permanent officeholder may have detrimental effects.
The vice president of finance and administration has broad responsibility for financial operations, investments, debt management, facilities, human resources, labor relations, student administrative services and information technology.
Some people familiar with Yale administrative functions, including union officials, consider the vice president of finance and administration the second most powerful person at the University behind Levin.
Mullinix said in an interview in January that the wide range of responsibilities makes the Yale vice president position fairly unique, but not necessarily desirable. It is no secret that Levin has had extreme difficulty finding someone who is well suited to the job and willing to uproot and move to New Haven.
“If someone has a purely financial background they may or may not be attracted to taking on those specific challenges,” Mullinix said.
With the labor situation slowly heating up as contract time approaches, union leaders are paying close attention to Levin’s search. When asked earlier this month whether the unfilled position could impact labor relations and upcoming contract negotiations, Local 35 President Bob Proto said it was up to the University to fill the vacancy.
“Yale is a $10 billion institution,” Proto said. “There have to be backup plans.”
The long wait has fueled speculation that more might be occurring than meets the eye.
“Something’s going on at Yale that makes people not want the position, but no one knows what that is,” a union source said. “[Union leaders] are surprised that it’s taking this long.”
Levin denied that anything unusualÊwas occurring other than an unfortunately long search process. But even as he and Richard insist that all eventually will be settled, others see a potential loss of direction if an appointment is not made in the very near future.