The selection of the president is the most important responsibility of the Yale Corporation. The members of the Corporation and of the Presidential Search Committee care deeply for this great university. Our duty, and our goal, is to identify and appoint the very best president possible to lead Yale forward.
The selection is also, unquestionably, an institutional matter that will affect faculty, students, staff and alumni, as well as others in New Haven and beyond. The Presidential Search Committee is firmly committed to engaging with all constituencies of the Yale community — on campus, in the city and around the world — to solicit input about the strengths, weaknesses and challenges facing Yale, and the attributes we should seek in the next president. Our process of engagement and learning began shortly after President Levin announced his decision to step down, leading up to an intensive Day of Outreach last week. These efforts will continue throughout the search, using every possible mode of communication — open forums, surveys, in-person meetings, email communications and other means of engaging all constituencies.
The input received to date from faculty, students and alumni is providing essential guidance to the development of a broad description of the president’s job and the primary attributes to be used in identifying and evaluating candidates. The Yale community will be kept updated as these are developed.
It is clear the Yale community has highest expectations for the next president of Yale, and for this reason it is essential that the search process attracts the very best candidates and that the candidate who is ultimately appointed has the best chance of succeeding as Yale’s president. To ensure this is the case, there are certain fundamental approaches customary to any high level search for an institutional leader. Perhaps most important is the need for confidentiality in the application, interview and final selection process. This is necessary to protect both potential candidates and Yale. Without it, we cannot count on the participation of many of the very best candidates we would want to consider but who require confidentiality so as to avoid compromising their work in their current positions, be they at Yale or elsewhere.
Or consider what might happen if Yale were to publicly announce a “finalist” it plans to appoint as its next president, and then that person declines the appointment, for whatever reason. This would not only be an embarrassment to Yale, but also leave the person eventually appointed Yale’s president branded “second choice.”
Moreover, in the current competitive environment for university presidents — Princeton, Dartmouth, Carnegie Mellon and nine of the most prominent public research universities are also currently seeking presidents — it is essential that Yale’s search be conducted so as to attract the best of candidates, and not be disadvantaged when there are other attractive presidential openings available where confidentiality in the search process is assured.
The Corporation and the Presidential Search Committee are sincere in seeking and considering the views of every constituency for whom the selection of the next Yale President matters. We are committed to providing regular updates as the process proceeds by posting information on the Presidential Search website. We are also committed to continuing dialogue, through one-on-one discussions with Campus Counselors and members of the PSC, and comments sent by email. Most importantly, we are committed to identifying and appointing an individual who will be an exceptional leader for Yale in the years ahead, continuing the extraordinary momentum achieved during Rick Levin’s two decades as President.
Edward Bass is a 1967 graduate of Saybrook College and the Senior Fellow of the Yale Corporation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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