Miller rumored to depart deanship

Dean Miller
Photo by Maria Zepeda .

With her term slated to end in June 2014, Yale College Dean Mary Miller appears poised to step down from her administrative position.

Though administrators have not confirmed Miller’s departure, Miller is already scheduled to give a series of lectures at the University of Cambridge in early 2015 — an endeavor that traditionally requires faculty members to leave campus for months at a time. Miller assumed her deanship five years ago, in 2008, after current University President Peter Salovey moved from Yale College Dean to University Provost.

The term of the Yale College dean — as with other University deans — lasts five years and is subject to renewal. In an interview with the News this week, Miller said that the continuation of her position is ultimately in the hands of Salovey, adding that she cannot provide a comment beyond the fact that her current term extends through the end of the academic year.

“I know she has writing plans, I know she has been invited to give the most important lectures in her field,” Salovey said. “We wouldn’t want to get in the way of that.”

The last Yale College Dean to serve for more than five years was Richard Brodhead, who left Yale in 2004 to become president of Duke University after 11 years in the position.

Miller’s upcoming stint at the University of Cambridge is the result of her appointment to the Cambridge Slade Professorship, a position that brings an art historian to Cambridge for approximately two months to deliver eight lectures and also conduct seminars for graduate students. Miller, a historian of pre-Columbian Latin American art, is widely regarded as a leader in her field, having delivered the prestigious Mellon lectures at the National Gallery of Art in May 2010. According to Yale professor Tim Barringer, Miller will be the only art historian of pre-Columbian Latin America at Cambridge.

Miller agreed to give the Slade lectures several years ago, when January 2015 was the most distant available slot, she said.

“I’ve been working on big things,” said Miller, who plans to focus her lectures on hand-held Mayan objects. “I’m interested in now looking at the small things.”

Miller confirmed that long-term lecture positions like the Slade professorship typically require faculty members to take a leave from the University. She added that she is currently eligible to take time away from Yale, given that she last took a leave in the 1997–’98 academic year.

But Miller also said that when faculty take weeklong lecture positions away from campus, they can sometimes schedule them in the spring break period, in order to avoid taking leave and creating conflicts with teaching and research responsibilities at Yale.

For February 2013, the Slade lectures were delivered by Harvard professor of Islamic art Gülru Necipoglu on Mondays and Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. over four consecutive weeks. When delivering the lectures, Necipoglu was on sabbatical from Harvard.

Jean Michel Massing, the head of the University of Cambridge Department of Art History, declined to comment as to how Yale and Cambridge have planned for coordinating Miller’s responsibilities while she is in the United Kingdom.

Barringer is the only other Yale faculty member to have been appointed to the professorship at Cambridge, having given the lectures during the 2009–’10 academic year. While at Cambridge, Barringer was also on sabbatical from Yale.

In 2010, Miller delivered the Mellon lectures in Washington, D.C. Unlike the Slade lectures, the Mellon lectures took place on Sundays, and the location was physically close enough for Miller to travel from New Haven on the weekends.

Salovey said that at the end of a dean’s term, a faculty committee forms to lead the search for a replacement. The committee is tasked with examining the “kinds of people that may or may not be appropriate for the kind of position” while consulting members of the Yale community, before making a recommendation to Salovey and University Provost Benjamin Polak.

Before assuming her role as Yale College Dean, Miller served as the Master of Saybrook College for nine years.

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