Yale’s searches for administrators could almost take up an entire newspaper page of help-wanted ads.
In a year filled with searches that have stretched far beyond their original deadlines — most noticeably for a dean of the Yale School of Drama and for a vice president of finance — the Whitney Humanities Center also continues to look for a new director. But Yale President Richard Levin said he feels confident the University will make an appointment within the month.
“I would be delighted to know soon,” said professor Elizabeth Dillon, who will be assistant director of the Whitney Humanities Center next year. “[But] I don’t feel like the center is stalled or in crisis.”
Peter Brooks, who was director of the Whitney Humanities Center in 1981 when the University founded the institute, will finish his second tenure as director at the end of this semester.
Brooks, a professor of French, will be Eastman Professor at Oxford University in England next year before coming back to Yale the year after. But Brooks, who has served as director of the center from 1981 to 1991 and again from 1996 to the present, will not return as the director of the humanities center.
Levin said he is looking for a current Yale professor to become director and to supervise the activities of the center, which coordinates interdisciplinary work within the broader category of the humanities.
The center has forged ahead with plans for conferences and other events next year, but Levin said there should not be an adjustment problem for the next director.
“The incoming and outgoing associate director have worked together in the past and there will be continuity,” Levin said.
Professor Amy Hungerford has served as the assistant director this year, and Dillon, who was assistant director last year, will resume that position next year.
The Whitney center likely will not face problems with continuity even though the current administration is now booking events for next year. Unlike at the Drama School, where a new dean may be forced to inherit shows in the Yale Repertory Theater’s schedule that may not fit his or her style, the new director of the humanities center does not necessarily put a personal stamp on many of the conferences and other events.
“The center facilitates conferences that other people approach us with,” Hungerford said.
Levin began the search for a director not by appointing a committee but by asking faculty members for letters suggesting candidates for the position and providing other input. He said he has received answers to his appeal from about 30 or 40 humanities professors.
“I think it was a great thing that President Levin decided that he wanted to cast a very wide net,” Hungerford said.
Levin said he is very close to making an appointment, and while the Whitney Humanities Center’s current and future leadership awaits his decision, professors said they are happy with the state of the center.
“I’ve been excited about what’s going on there,” Dillon said. “We’re trying to bring more people to the center.”
Hungerford had praise for the recent involvement of more junior faculty in the work of the humanities center. She said items like a weekly Friday lunch for several senior professors, junior professors and graduate students promote dialogue between departments and also increase personal interaction.
“The community there is not just intellectual, it’s social as well,” Hungerford said.
Even as Levin works to make his final choice, Brooks, who has seen the center grow and develop, said he feels he is leaving it in good shape.
“It’s had a great renewal over the last two years,” Brooks said. “I think it’s livelier than it’s ever been.”