After efforts to gather student, faculty and alumni opinion on the search for a new Yale president, the Search Committee released a statement Tuesday morning outlining the most important qualities University President Richard Levin’s successor must possess.
The committee wrote that the person who will replace Levin at the end of the academic year must be “a scholar and educator” with a commitment to administrative duties, among other qualities. The statement was published on the Yale website and included in a Yale News email to students Tuesday, but only two of 10 students interviewed Tuesday were already aware of its existence. All students and faculty interviewed agreed with the basic ideas outlined in the statement, though many added that they consider it to be overly general and ineffective.
“The statement reflects the important themes that the committee has identified,” said Search Committee member Judith Chevalier ’89, a finance and economics professor at the School of Management. “Of course, feedback was solicited widely and not every attribute to be considered was included in the statement.”
According to the statement, the new president must be a global thinker, exemplify the “highest ethical and moral standards,” maintain a positive relationship with New Haven and embrace the diversity of the Yale community.
Students and faculty interviewed said they appreciate that the statement is generally representative of their views but added that they cannot find anything with which to disagree due to the statement’s broad scope.
“On the whole, this was an OK statement with predictable language,” classics professor Egbert Bakker said. “These are words that don’t mean much to me — they go without saying.”
Though he agrees with the statement’s goal of finding a scholar to serve as president, Bakker said the document does not address several notable faculty concerns, including the controversy surrounding Yale’s partnership with the National University of Singapore in the creation of a liberal arts college. Overall, Bakker said, the statement only contains “language positive about Yale and all the beautiful things we do together.”
English professor David Kastan said the statement’s release makes the search process as transparent as it can be given the inherent confidentiality required in searches for administrators. He added that the statement, like any other “job description,” cannot detail the exact qualities the committee is looking for in Levin’s successor.
Search Committee Student Counselor Brandon Levin ’14 said he was not involved in drafting the statement but noted that its existence is “direct evidence” that the Search Committee considered student input. When asked to name parts of the document that echo student opinion, he did not provide specific examples but said he heard students discuss “almost everything” in the statement.
He added that almost 1,000 students took the Yale College Council’s presidential search survey, and over 300 students spoke with him during office hours and other meetings.
Three students interviewed said the statement made no steps toward giving students a formal voice in the search process.
Yoni Greenwood ’15, one of the leaders of Students Unite Now — an organization that has worked to ensure student voice is heard in the search process — criticized the manner in which the statement was released to the student body.
“If the search process was being run properly, it would have been sent out in an email from the Search Committee to the entire Yale community,” he said, adding that the statement was announced in a newsletter that required students to click on three separate links in order to access its text.
Zach Blickensderfer ’16 said he agrees with the qualifications outlined in the statement, adding that he appreciates the emphasis it places on diversity and scholarship.
The presidential search began Aug. 31, a day after Levin annouced his plans to step down from his post in June 2013.