Days-old search already criticized

Just days after it began, the search process for University President Richard Levin’s successor is already drawing criticism from some faculty, alumni and students.

Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Edward Bass ’67 sent a campus-wide email Friday afternoon in which he detailed the presidential search process — to be led by a committee of eight Corporation trustees and four yet-to-be-named faculty members — and asked for input from the Yale community. Since then, Bass has received over 800 letters from faculty, students, staff and alumni, and nominations of more than 200 professors to serve on the committee. But some members of the University say the process is undemocratic and the nomination period — which has already closed — did not allow enough time for input.

Members of the Yale community were able to email their nominations to Bass between his announcement at roughly 4 p.m. Friday and noon on Tuesday. Given the Labor Day weekend, this gave community members less than one business day to submit suggestions.

“This kind of severe limitation is itself a way of stifling input, while appearing to encourage it,” French and African-American studies professor Christopher Miller ’83 said in a Wednesday email to the News. “There was no possibility of faculty conferring amongst themselves in any meaningful way, and certainly no time for any democratic selection process.”

Several of the professors speaking out against the format of the search, like Miller, are part of the larger faculty group that has protested the way the University is currently governed. Another member of that group, history of art professor Mimi Yiengpruksawan, wrote an email to Bass on Sunday comparing the faculty’s lack of a voice on the presidential selection committee to their alleged lack of input in the decision to launch Yale-NUS College. She proposed establishing an advisory board with 12 professors, half appointed by the committee and half elected by the Yale College Faculty, to aid the committee in its efforts.

In a Wednesday night email, Bass said he considered the “context of the precedents and traditions for the Presidential Search at Yale” and decided to select faculty for the committee by nomination and appointment, rather than election.

“I believe the structure we arrived at, which is comparable to the highly successful approach the Yale Corporation used when it selected President Levin, will accomplish the desired participation and input for all constituencies,” Bass said.

The deans and directors of Yale’s schools will review the recommendations and offer their own before Bass makes the final decision, which he said on will come by the end of the week. The search committee will be responsible for nominating candidates for the presidency to the Corporation.

Four professors who emailed Bass about the search committee — three of whom asked that faculty be allowed to elect their representatives — said he has yet to respond. Bass told the News he plans to respond to every message.

To facilitate the process for nominating search committee members, four recent alumni and current student Donna Horning ’13 created a website Monday night that offered community members a template to write letters to Bass. The site noted that most of the trustees already appointed to the committee are from the corporate world, and emphasized the need to appoint members who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the liberal arts.

The creators of the website suggested nominating four faculty members who they claim are willing to serve on the committee — Meg Urry, chair of the Physics Department; George Chauncey ’77 GRD ’89, head of the American studies major; Stephen Pitti ’91, master of Ezra Stiles College and a professor of history; and Joseph Roach, director of the Program in Theater Studies and a Sterling professor. Organizers of the site have encouraged visitors to continue emailing Bass, even though the deadline has passed.

“We’re thrilled that Yalies all over the world — over 3,600 people — visited our site on Tuesday, and that so many faculty, administrators, students, and alumni want to be a part of the decisions that affect the University,” the organizers wrote in a statement to the News on Wednesday. “We’re working now on our next steps for advancing this conversation and contributing to the presidential search process.”

The website’s creators said they will update it by Monday with information on the input they received from visitors.

Levin will officially step down on June 30, 2013.


  • allegro39

    A long weekend bandwith calculated with superb Machiavellian skill….or with no skill whatsoever?

  • The Anti-Yale

    It’s absurd to waste your time trying to work within the system.

    Administrators are magicians at “benign neglect and intransigent equivocation”. It’s an art they have.

    I know.

    I have a completely worthless M.Ed. from Kent State University in “Student Personnel Services and Administration in Higher Education.”

    All it trained me to do was be a gutless coward—-i.e. to have no opinions and be a cipher in order to neutralize yours.

    If I were you (and I’m not) I’d call that website you set up “The Anti-Search Committee for Yale President”.

    If the papacy could do it at Avignon (The Anti-Pope), the Yale faculty, alumni, and students can certainly do it at New Haven.

    That’s what I did with “The Anti-Yale” which has had 146,086 views as of this morning.

    Paul D. Keane

    M.Div. ‘80

    M.A., M.Ed.


    Did I read that Yale University actually lacks a faculty deliberative body which can pass resolutions?

    One of the great universities of the world has a castrato faculty?

    (If I knew the feminine equivalent of “castrato” I would have included it in an egalitarian gesture of respect.)

  • terryhughes

    “some members of the University say the process is undemocratic”

    The Search Committee is advisory. The president is elected by the Yale Corporation, one-member, one-vote. They do their best. Anyone who thinks the process is or should be “democratic” beyond that is too naive to take seriously.

    • ernie

      Nobody thinks that it is but why is it naïve to think that it should be?

  • Polistotle

    What preidential seach.

    There is no other likely candidate with credentials rising even close to those of Peter Salovey–Provost, Dean of the College, Dean of the Graduate School, Chairman of a major department, Director of Graduate Studies of a major univerity department, assistant, associate, and full professor in a major department with appointments in three faculties.

    Short of wheeling Judy Rodin out of her nursing home and spiking her coffee with aricept, Salovey is by far the best choice.

    • ldffly

      Careful about Salovey. I saw this kind of thing go on after Brewster resigned. Then the corporation picked Giamatti. At the time, everybody “knew” it would be the dean of Harvard College Henry Rosovsky. What happened to Rosovsky? Provost Hanna Gray was seriously considered. There was also a very visible candidate named Prosser Glifford, who later went public with his disappointment at not being chosen. Giamatti’s name didn’t come up all that often.

      • ldffly

        Now that I’m thinking about this, I believe that the Corporation might have offered the job to Rosovsky, but he turned them down. By that time, Gray had accepted the Univ. of Chicago, so they skipped Glifford and went to Giamatti.

      • DRobinso

        I believe his name is Prosser Gifford.

        • ldffly

          Right. Thanks!