President Levin is wasting no time in searching for a replacement for Dean Brodhead. On Friday, Levin announced the members of the 11-member search committee that will pick Brodhead’s successor by the March recess, if not sooner.
But there are some holes in the process. The committee is comprised of high-profile faculty members, and the absence of junior faculty creates a very narrow range of perspectives, even among the faculty. Students are also not represented on the committee, but were invited to submit nominations or comments via confidential e-mail or letter. We understand the rationale for such a top-down approach, but it may not yield the most accurate reflection of campus opinion.
Students were not involved in the selection of Brodhead, and we can understand the reasons for keeping students off of the official search committee. But if the University wants student input, the YCC, which has named as one forum for soliciting student opinion, is not the right mechanism for it. We elected YCC members to pick spring fling bands and organize shuttles to the airport,
What students want is fairly intuitive, after all. We want someone with a presence and personality. A dean needs to inspire, to make everyone proud — or prouder — to be a part of the Yale institution. Because the role of a dean involves motivating and guiding students in this way, we hope the committee looks for candidates who are truly great teachers. Most importantly, any dean needs to be actively engaged with both students and faculty. The dean defines the tone of the college and must be able to earn respect and admiration in doing so.
But, of course, even as students with tunnel vision toward our own wants, we understand there is more to being a dean than inspiring students. A dean must win over everyone — not just students and parents, but also alumni and, especially, faculty. A dean, who plays such a large role in the tenure process, needs to understand University politics, but must be able to rise above them. In fact, and we almost hesitate to say this, an ideal dean would be relatively apolitical, or at least keep his or her own politics at a distance. This campus is political enough —
Although the new dean must unquestionably be academically qualified, we can’t imagine the committee considering any candidates who are not. Rather, we urge the committee to look beyond the academic achievements of the candidates and seek out those candidates with truly remarkable personal characteristics — those described above. Departmental affiliation, for example, should absolutely be secondary to finding a candidate who embodies all of the requisite personal traits. How students embrace the new dean is vital to the future happiness of students and the future of both Yale College and Yale University.