Committee talks dean search

With the search process underway, the criteria for the reelection of Yale’s three new deans are slowly emerging.

In late April, the dean search advisory committee will present a list of candidates for the three deanships to University President Peter Salovey. Though committee members interviewed declined to name specific candidates, psychology professor and committee Chair Marvin Chun said in an open forum with students last week that the list will comprise some dozen names for three dean positions: Yale College dean, Graduate School dean and Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean, a new position that will oversee faculty affairs and carry some of the burden of the Provost’s Office.

Chun said Salovey has given the committee all of April to make its recommendations, with a timeline to collect information within the next few weeks so that the committee can spend the rest of the month in deliberations.

“It’s very unglamorous — pretty much like sausage-making,” Chun said of the search process.

Chun said Salovey wants the committee to “take its time,” but that the list of candidates has to be complete in time for a decision to be made by the end of the academic year.

While the ultimate appointments are a toss-up at this point, Chun’s pointed to several qualities he deems essential for the deanships, many of which narrow down the pool considerably.

At the meeting, Chun said the candidates should be full professors and well-regarded scholars, which will help them obtain the respect of colleagues they will have to manage.

Chun also emphasized Salovey’s commitment to diversity in the search process.

Though he acknowledged the three new deans will have to work together as a team, Chun said it would be hard for the committee to recommend candidates in groups of three. Instead, he said, the committee will name individuals and specify which positions the candidates may be suited for.

Chun added that administrators who attended Yale as students have an easier time fundraising, which is a key task of the deanships.

All five previous Yale College deans had been academic department chairs. The past three College deans — Mary Miller GRD ’78, Salovey GRD ’86 and Richard Brodhead ’68 GRD ’72 — have held Yale degrees.

Still, Chun said the search committee will not restrict itself to fielding candidates who have served as department chairs.

“There are many types of administrative experience that would make someone a strong candidate,” Chun said in an email.

Candidates that meet the criteria specified by Chun include Tamar Gendler ’87, the current deputy provost for the humanities, who successfully led the Philosophy Department for three years prior to moving to Warner House.

Gendler, who will finish her one-year appointment in the Provost’s Office this summer, said “the structure for next year’s Provost’s Office is still under discussion.”

When Yale was in the process of evaluating whether to add a Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean position this winter, Gendler traveled to Stanford University to learn about Stanford’s implementation of a similar decanal structure.

Another potential candidate is Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway GRD ’95, who is stepping down as master at the end of this academic year. Holloway currently chairs the African-American Studies Department and sits on the ad hoc committee on the expansion of Yale College.

“With the dawn of the new colleges, Yale College will be a yet more demanding responsibility for the dean,” Miller said.

Philosophy professor Michael Della Rocca said the new residential colleges, along with the future of online education, are the two most urgent issues for both faculty and students at the moment.

Calhoun students interviewed expressed enthusiasm at the potential of Holloway assuming the Yale College deanship.

“He would be great for the job,” Sang Won Lee ’17 said. “He has terrific leadership and understanding of the student body … he has a certain charisma.”

Brian Lei ’16 called Holloway “an excellent role model” who leads by example.

The pool for a graduate school dean is larger than that for the Yale College dean, as medical school faculty members are also eligible for the position. Indeed, successful graduate school deans in the past were dark-horse candidates from the medical school, Miller said. Susan Hockfield, who later went on to be the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a neurobiology professor in the medical school when she was announced as the graduate school dean in 1998.

Still, most undergraduates interviewed showed a lack of awareness about the dean search.

“I really haven’t been keeping up with it,” Wendy Chen ’17 said.

The open forum last week — organized by the Yale College Council — was poorly attended, with about a dozen students in the audience, of whom most were members of the Yale College Council. Students in attendance raised a variety of issues that they hope the new deans will confront, ranging from alcohol policy to same-sex housing.

Despite their indifference to the search process, most undergraduates and graduate students interviewed agreed that the new dean should concentrate on student life, communicate transparently and be open-minded about student concerns.

Lee said the new deans need to have an understanding beyond the narrow confines of academia.

“The dean should be able to communicate very well with students, understand their needs and ultimately, be able to meet those needs,” Faizah Zakaria GRD ’17 said.

Miller was appointed Yale College dean in 2008.

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