If you pay attention to only one administrative story line this year, make it the one dominating news this week: the search for the next dean of Yale College.
Nothing in President Levin’s playbook compares in sheer gravity. No appointment has a more direct and immediate impact on student life and classroom experience. Few administrators enjoy more frequent access to the president’s ear.
So it follows that Levin must take extra pains to ensure his choice is, hands down, the most qualified individual — qualified, that is, not only on the basis of CV but also on his or her approachability, vision, wisdom, creativity and academic achievement.
There is one more thing.
In 2008, the University boasts greater diversity in its students than ever before and yet Yale College — still — lacks a top female administrator of administrator of color. We’re falling behind peer institutions. We are, in a sense, even falling behind ourselves.
Yale must break this pattern now.
In an e-mail last year, Levin said he has “made recruitment of more men and women of color to the administrative ranks an important priority.” And with good reason: the call for diversity in the upper echelons is not a matter of affirmative action or even fairness. It is a matter of good common sense: A school that boasts a student body nearly one-third non-white should also be able to a boast an administrative apparatus of a similar makeup.
But why the 2008 dean search? Last time around, Peter Salovey happened to stand out, and so he rightfully earned the appointment. Now, though, there appears to be no excuse. Likely possibilities, in no particular order, include two college masters, Mary Miller and Jonathan Holloway, as well as Meg Urry, the physics department chair, and María Rosa Menocal, the director of the Whitney.
In his e-mail, Levin put the promise in broad terms. Administrators will, he said, “strive to make the presence of exceptional staff from diverse backgrounds the rule rather than the exception in management.”
For now at least, it remains the exception. All that could change, however, in just a matter of days.