Miller and Pollard depart deanships

This article has been updated to reflect the version published in print on Monday Jan. 27. 

Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard will leave their posts at the end of the academic year, University President Peter Salovey announced in an email to the Yale community Friday afternoon.

Both Miller and Pollard cited a desire to return to academia as reasons for stepping down. The decision, they said, had long been on their minds. The announcement comes several months before the end of Miller’s tenure as dean, which began on Dec. 1, 2008. For Pollard, the decision to step down means that his term, which began in June 2010, will have lasted only four years.

University President Peter Salovey told the News that Miller and Pollard, in separate meetings, both informed him of their decisions to step down in early January.  Senior Adviser to the President Martha Highsmith said that both deans told former University President Richard Levin when they were initially appointed that they planned to serve until around 2014.

Both of the deans’ replacements will enter their roles at major moments of transition for the University. The end of Miller and Pollard’s tenures means that on July 1, four of the most senior administrators in the University — the president, provost and the two deans tasked with overseeing the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — will have stepped into their new posts in the past 18 months.

“We’re looking at a time of real institutional change,” Miller said, pointing to the faculty’s recent vote to form a faculty senate in conjunction with the administrative turnovers. “I could not have imagined 20 years ago that I would be a voice of institutional memory, but now that I’ve become one I will be a resource for the future.”

In his email to the community, Salovey said he will convene a single advisory committee to develop recommendations for the deans’ replacements, who he will ultimately appoint. Salovey told the News that the committee will be announced in the coming weeks and that he expects to name successors to Miller and Pollard by the end of the academic term.

Last November, Salovey said that in the event of Miller’s departure, he would “love input from students” in addition to faculty members, in the search process for a new dean. But so far, no mechanism for such input has been announced.

Highsmith said she expects Salovey to look for faculty members with “outstanding academic record[s] of teaching and scholarship” to serve in the two deans’ roles. She added the Salovey is likely to place an emphasis on “strong commitment[s] to students and student life.”

Salovey said he plans to take advantage of both positions turning over at the same time to find a pair of deans that will complement each other.

“We have the opportunity to consider the deans as a team,” Salovey said on Sunday. “I will be looking for deans who are committed both to Yale’s scholarly mission as well as our education mission, and who believe in a more unified, accessible, innovative and excellent University.”

Chemistry professor Gary Haller, who chaired the committee charged with recommending a new dean for the College in 2008, said that both deans should be talented and friendly communicators who easily interact with others.

Although both new deans will face challenges in their roles, it is Miller’s replacement who will take charge of an institution in the midst of a once-in-a-generation transition: the establishment of two new residential colleges in 2017. Miller’s successor will take office only months before administrators anticipate breaking ground on the new colleges.

As a result, the new dean will be charged with managing the largest growth in the college’s student body — by 800 students — in more than half a century and will be responsible for preparing both the faculty and the University’s facilities for the influx of students.

Pollard’s replacement, meanwhile, will take charge of a graduate school confronting dwindling job prospects in academia for many of its students, widespread skepticism of the value of graduate humanities education and tepid federal support for research.

“The issues facing the graduate school include mentoring and support of graduate students, the challenging job market especially in some fields of the humanities,” Salovey said, “and bringing students together across programs and departments for bridging academic and social experiences.”

In addition, the new graduate school dean will be tasked with pushing forward the renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies, which Pollard said was not considered a priority when he took office in 2010. The run-down building is slated for a $100-million renovation to be completed in 2019.

Thus far, no clear frontrunners have emerged to fill the two vacant spots. In 2008, five others — Astronomy professor Charles Bailyn, Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway, Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti, Director of the Whitney Humanities Center Maria Rosa Menocal and Physics Department Chair Meg Urry — were considered top candidates for Miller’s job. While Bailyn has since become the inaugural dean of faculty at Yale-NUS and Menocal has passed away, the other three are still at Yale in the same positions they held in 2008.

Holloway, who is stepping down as Calhoun master this year on the same date as Miller, declined to comment on whether he is interested in the deanship.

University Secretary and Vice President of Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said Sunday that the new Yale College dean must come from the faculty. Together with the provost, the deans of the college and graduate school are responsible for faculty appointments, reviews and promotions. As a result, many faculty suggested that those three positions ought to represent the three divisions of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: humanities, social sciences and biological or physical sciences.

Currently, two of the four most senior administrative posts are held by social scientists — Salovey as a psychologist, and University Provost Benjamin Polak is an economist.

Miller was the first-ever woman appointed to the deanship of the college. Whether the diversity of the senior administration will play a major role in Salovey’s deliberations this year, though, remains to be seen.

In 2008 and 2010, the Yale Corporation gave Levin sole responsibility for picking the two new deans.

Adrian Rodrigues and Larry Milstein contributed reporting.

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