The University Record, May 24 , 1999

Brandon briefs retirees on issues

By Rebecca A. Doyle

David Brandon made two leaps this year—from a 20-year career with Valassis Communications to the CEO‘s chair at Domino‘s Pizza, and into a leather chair at the Regents‘ table at the U-M.

Brandon began serving his first year as a Regent in January, and a few months later stepped into the CEO role at Domino‘s, only 10 minutes down the road.

Although they are close geographically, the two are very different and it is a “challenge to remember the difference between the world of business and the world of universities” Brandon told an audience of University retirees May 13. Domino‘s employs 13,000 workers in 65 countries around the world, and the U-M employs more than 30,000 Washtenaw County residents at an annual payroll cost of about $1 billion. But, Brandon said, the gap between the ways universities do business and the way businesses are run is closing.

Brandon fielded questions from audience members that encompassed such topics as the affirmative action lawsuit against the University, problems the

U-M faces, the campus master plan, how retirees can help and whether the current faculty has enough contact with the Board of Regents.

Brandon told the audience that at Central Michigan University, where he served as a member of the board for four years, a faculty committee provided a link between regents and the teaching faculty. “The Regents‘ ability to connect with University faculty here is informal in nature, which is good, but it is hard for me as a businessman to be available for faculty during the day,” he said.

Asked what the two major problems facing the

U-M are, Brandon answered, “Money and money.”

“We are competing in all ways with private universities whose interest income is the same as what we congratulate ourselves on raising during a three- or four-year capital campaign.” Brandon noted that he includes fund-raising as one of the responsibilities of being a Regent at the U-M, as well as working to maintain a level of funding from the state.

Responding to questions about the admissions lawsuits, Brandon noted that the issue is a very, very complicated one. However, it is important to recognize, he told the audience, that “we are the defendant in this lawsuit. It‘s not a position we can just walk out of.”

The other important point to remember about the University‘s involvement is that while some people seem to think the argument is about diversity, Brandon said, “it is not.”

“Diversity is essential. The issue is how we create that diversity.” He also noted that the current struggle over the U-M‘s policies will probably be in the courts for years, and he expects it will be decided in the Supreme Court.

Asked about retention of particularly young and promising faculty, Brandon noted that retention was one of the biggest issues for deans, and indicated that 30 percent to 80 percent increases had been offered to some faculty to lure them from Michigan.

“It‘s a competitive world,” he noted. “It all comes back to creating a sense of loyalty, of connection. In business, it is creating a corporate culture that gives a sense of ownsership and connection, that says this is Śmy place.‘ At the University, there is less monetary incentive. It is more difficult for faculty to feel like stakeholders and there is a lack of alternatives that can provide individual faculty members rewards designed to encourage long-term relationships.”

When an audience member asked about the master plan and when it might be made public, Brandon said that he thought the release of the campus plan had been slowed down in order to include major decisions about the Life Sciences Initiative. His own input, he noted, came from personal experiences.

“My son stayed in South Quad last summer as part of a sports program,” Brandon noted. “In fact, he stayed in the same room I had when I was an undergraduate student here.

“Nothing had changed. It was the same room, the same paint, the same floor. I even think it might have been the same mattress.”

Brandon said it is important to listen to the students, who are “sometimes brilliant in sensing priorities. There is a real concern about providing University housing for those who want to live on campus.”

Brandon attended the U-M on a football scholarship and received an A.B. degree and teaching certificate in 1974.