Provost likely to come from within Yale

Though Provost Peter Salovey has secured the post of Yale’s 23rd president, he still has several items on his to-do list in his current position. One of the first tasks — appoint his successor.

The Yale Corporation announced last Thursday that Salovey will assume the presidency on June 30 after University President Richard Levin steps down following 20 years at the post. In doing so, he will vacate the position of provost, the second-highest-ranked administrator at Yale. While the timeline for a search for a new provost remains unclear, two deputy provosts interviewed said Salovey’s successor will likely be someone from within the Yale faculty.

“I’m motivated not to wait until June 30 to appoint someone,” Salovey told the News Thursday, though he said in a Sunday email that “no decisions have been made about the timeline or process” for the search and that he will be discussing the issue with University President Richard Levin soon.

The nomination of a provost is typically the responsibility of the sitting president, but Levin told the News Saturday that Salovey would be conducting the search. Levin will have stepped down by the time the next provost begins his duties this summer, and  Yale has traditionally enabled a president to choose his or her own provost in the event of a vacancy — a system that Levin called “very wise” in an interview with the News during Yale’s last provost search in 2008.

“There has to be real chemistry between the president and the provost,” Levin said in 2008. “To be successful, the president and provost have to have a really close, mutually trusting relationship.”

Salovey’s search for a new provost marks the beginning of a larger transition between the Levin and Salovey administrations. Levin is well-known for his ability to identify and nurture administrative talent, and many of his appointees — which include all 14 deans of Yale’s schools and all but one University officer — have been at Yale for more than a decade.

Two deputy provosts interviewed said a Yale faculty member will likely be chosen as Yale’s next provost but did not comment on possible front-runners for the post. Of the past 10 provosts before Salovey, nine of them were members of the Yale faculty when they were appointed, and the 10th had previously served as a Yale trustee. Three of those 10 were deans or deputy provosts prior to becoming provost.

Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, said that because the economy has not yet fully recovered, the next provost needs to be able to “manage difficult budget compromises.”

“The provost, to preside over lean times, needs to have institutional authority and latitude, and the full respect of the faculty,” she said. “It will be important to have a provost from the ladder faculty at Yale.”

Deputy Provost for Academic Resources Lloyd Suttle said the new provost must interact regularly with the faculty as well as other officers of the University.

Unlike searches for presidents, masters and deans, searches for provosts have historically been conducted without the contributions of a search committee. Past presidents have instead solicited nominations and opinions from the faculty before presenting a recommendation to the Yale Corporation for a formal vote of approval. The time required for provost searches is usually short — the past 10 searches ranged between two and nine weeks.

Though Salovey is only the second provost in Yale history to be tapped as University President, after Kingman Brewster Jr. in 1963, five of Salovey’s 10 immediate predecessors went on to become presidents or vice-chancellors at prestigious universities. The three provosts Levin appointed before Salovey advanced to the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The position of provost at Yale was created in 1919 during a reorganization of the University that also led to the addition of a dean of students.

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