The search for a new dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is underway, and the search committee’s chair said the committee will strongly consider appointing a scientist to replace current dean Jon Butler.

Though University President Richard Levin said Yale typically tries to ensure that at least one of the University’s three senior administrators who govern the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — the provost, the dean of the Graduate School and the dean of Yale College — is a scientist, none of the positions has been held by one since Andrew Hamilton, a chemist, stepped down as provost in 2008. To help level the playing field, Levin appointed a scientist-heavy search committee, chaired by Thomas Pollard, a Sterling professor and chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, to hire a new dean from within Yale’s faculty. Levin has instructed the committee to consider the academic discipline of the short-list of candidates it will recommend to him at the end of March.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”8101″ ]

“I’m not requiring the committee to look only at scientists,” Levin said. “But I am asking them to pay particular attention to that.”

Last week, the committee met with Levin and Butler separately to discuss hiring objectives and the details of the deanship, Pollard said, noting that a candidate with science affiliations would be “desirable, but not absolutely essential.”

“This is a particularly important position for the University to fill,” Pollard said, adding that previous deans — including Levin, an economist, and Provost Peter Salovey, a psychologist — have gone on to other important positions in the administration.

Yale is unique among its peer universities in that the University does not name a dean to cater specifically to its Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Instead, the deans of Yale College and the Graduate School share this responsibility with the Provost, Levin said.

Butler, a historian, originally oversaw the humanities side of the FAS after succeeding Salovey as dean of the Graduate School in 2004. But Butler ceded these responsibilities to Mary Miller when she became dean of Yale College in December 2008, and he now oversees the science and social science faculty. Butler is also chair of the tenure committees for the social sciences and physical sciences, according to the FAS Web site.

Miller said she will have no direct input in the selection of the dean of the Graduate School, but she said she plans to make her opinions known to the search committee.

“I think it’s very likely that the new dean of the Graduate School will come from the sciences,” Miller said, adding that the new dean will assume Butler’s duties in representing the sciences and the social sciences as a leader of the FAS.

Levin said he has no plans to appoint an interim dean, preferring to have the new dean selected and ready to take office by the fall. The committee expects to present Levin with a list of prospective hires by the end of March, Pollard said. Butler said he will leave his post at the end of this academic year and go on leave next year.

“[Levin] would prefer to have [the list of candidates] before then,” Pollard said. “It is not very much time because we have two weeks of spring break and a lot of us have conferences to go to before then.”

Still, Pollard said the committee’s work will not be too difficult considering the field of candidates from whom it may choose.

“We have so much talent around the University,” Pollard said. “It’s just a matter of identifying the strongest candidates.”

In January 2009, Levin extended Butler’s term one year past the end of his five-year appointment as dean and postponed the search for a new dean.

Correction: Feb. 15, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Graduate School Dean Jon Butler will retire June 30. Butler will leave his post June 30 and spend the 2010-’11 academic year on leave.