After a short semester break and a tidy managerial reshuffling, today is the first official day of a new term and a restructured Yale administration.
Neurobiologist and former Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield is now Provost Hockfield, taking over for long-term second-in-command Alison Richard, who left as of Jan. 1 to serve as vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge in England. Former Psychology Department chairman and popular professor Peter Salovey is now Dean Salovey, occupying Hockfield’s old office in the Hall of Graduate Studies. And so President Levin has lost part of his original dream team, but with Hockfield, Salovey, and some lucky timing, his administration has gained an opportunity to re-emphasize some critical academic goals.
In particular, one of the key words of Levin’s post-Richard cabinet, it seems, is science.
During a bubbly Beinecke ceremony at the end of fall semester, Levin proudly declared Hockfield Yale’s first “full-fledged, honest-to-goodness” laboratory scientist-turned-provost. Considering her administrative track record, including her efforts as dean to increase ties between the medical and graduate schools, Hockfield’s appointment likely will prove more than just symbolically focused on Group IV.
Now, as the academic review is moving toward a conclusion, the University has a unique chance to redefine its curriculum and help effectively integrate laboratory sciences into the liberal arts program. If Hockfield considers improvements in science education for the resolutely non-science Yale college majority to be a priority, her experience as a professor and her tenure as provost will be of great benefit to undergraduates.
The new provost faces a weak economy, just as Richard did when she began a successful effort to balance the University’s budget more than eight years ago. Hockfield will have to say “no” as Richard did. But hers was a bold administration in the graduate school — one that helped reshape the Graduate Student Assembly, developed the McDougal Center and even underwent its own restructuring — and hopefully Hockfield will bring some of that creativity to her new post, especially as proposals from the academic review come in this spring. Both she and Richard have, for example, made efforts to recruit and tenure minorities and women in the past, despite tight finances. A continuation of this effort — as well as a review of the tenure process, which has developed into an unpredictable mechanism that sharply divides junior and senior faculty — is in order.
Salovey, meanwhile, inherits all of Hockfield’s positive efforts in the graduate school as well as his own helping of the inevitable confrontations with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which Hockfield herself faced down. She emphasized community; he seems poised to do the same. Under her leadership, undergraduates were made aware of courses and events in the graduate school; under his, hopefully, undergraduates will enjoy higher quality section instruction as graduate students enjoy an increasingly higher quality of life.
Both take over for accomplished administrators, and both look to problems left over, projects unfinished, and the challenges of filling big shoes. But even though the succession was logical and smooth, both have an opportunity to give new energy to a long-standing and settled administration.