Search begins for deans, masters

With a quarter of Yale’s current crop of residential college masters and deans leaving by the end of the year, there are several important holes to fill in the Yale community.

Two deans are leaving at the end of this semester, and another dean and three masters will depart after the academic year. The University must now select six leaders who will play crucial roles in shaping residential college life for years to come.

“This is not a crisis,” Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said. “All the masters have served long terms, and you can’t expect anybody to serve forever. We are most grateful to all those who have done these jobs, and we hope to find excellent successors.”

The replacement process begins very soon for Davenport and Berkeley colleges, which will lose Acting Dean Eileen Hunt and Dean Laurence Winnie at the end of the semester.

“Dean Brodhead is forming a search committee even as we speak,” Winnie said.

Brodhead is responsible for appointing committees to replace deans, while Yale President Richard Levin oversees a similar process to replace masters.

Committees screen applicants from both inside and outside the Yale community.

“It’s a national search,” departing Trumbull Dean Peter Novak said.

After search committees — composed of students and college fellows — are formed, they begin to review the candidates, who apply to a general pool, Novak said.

For example, one does not apply to be dean of Trumbull College specifically.

“You just apply for residential college dean,” Novak said.

But sometimes people have greatness thrust upon them, departing Morse Master Stanton Wheeler said.

“My own experience is that one does not apply for the job, one is approached for the job,” Wheeler said.

Nevertheless, cases where someone applies generally for a position raise the question of whether there will be intercollege competition for top candidates.

“I don’t know how they’re going to parse that,” Winnie said.

Diversity in both gender and ethnicity may be another issue in finding new masters and deans. Only eight of 24 deans and masters are women (one of whom, Davenport’s Hunt, is leaving). And the only African-American dean or master, Davenport Master Gerald Thomas, is leaving at the end of the year.

Departing officials were unsure of whether increasing diversity would be a consideration in the searches.

“I think they always consider [diversity] as much as the pool allows,” Winnie said.

Levin agreed with respect to the search for new masters.

“[It’s] desirable to have diversity within the group, certainly,” Levin said. “[There are] no strict ideas about that — we want the best possible people.”

The last three masters appointed have been women.

Howard Han ’02, a master’s aide in Berkeley — which is losing both its master and dean — said the committees should look primarily at how new leaders will interact with students.

Han said the most important quality for a master or dean is the “ability to relate to and inspire trust in the students.”

The departing deans and masters themselves will not have a say in finding their replacements.

Novak said the rationale is that since the former officials are leaving, they should not be major determining factors in the new appointments.

One consideration that is a factor, though, is the relationship between the remaining dean or master and the new appointee.

“You always want to have deans and masters who work well,” Winnie said.

Winnie is in a different situation in Berkeley, which is also losing Master Harry Stout. Stout is leaving at the end of the year, but Winnie is not distressed.

“The timing works well,” he said. “The team [of Stout and the new dean] will be here for a whole term before the master changes.”

Davenport, also losing both its dean and master, is on a similar schedule.

Although there are a lot of vacant positions now, Levin said he is not worried because he once replaced four masters in one year.

“I’m pretty confident that we can get people to do the job,” he said. “I think we’ll be OK.”

Winnie was even more confident in the ability of University officials to find replacements.

“I think they usually have a pretty clear idea of what they want,” he said. “They always end up coming up with a superlative group of people.”

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