Just days after it began, the search process for University President Richard Levin’s successor is already drawing criticism from some faculty, alumni and students.
Yale Corporation Senior Fellow Edward Bass ’67 sent a campus-wide email Friday afternoon in which he detailed the presidential search process — to be led by a committee of eight Corporation trustees and four yet-to-be-named faculty members — and asked for input from the Yale community. Since then, Bass has received over 800 letters from faculty, students, staff and alumni, and nominations of more than 200 professors to serve on the committee. But some members of the University say the process is undemocratic and the nomination period — which has already closed — did not allow enough time for input.
Members of the Yale community were able to email their nominations to Bass between his announcement at roughly 4 p.m. Friday and noon on Tuesday. Given the Labor Day weekend, this gave community members less than one business day to submit suggestions.
“This kind of severe limitation is itself a way of stifling input, while appearing to encourage it,” French and African-American studies professor Christopher Miller ’83 said in a Wednesday email to the News. “There was no possibility of faculty conferring amongst themselves in any meaningful way, and certainly no time for any democratic selection process.”
Several of the professors speaking out against the format of the search, like Miller, are part of the larger faculty group that has protested the way the University is currently governed. Another member of that group, history of art professor Mimi Yiengpruksawan, wrote an email to Bass on Sunday comparing the faculty’s lack of a voice on the presidential selection committee to their alleged lack of input in the decision to launch Yale-NUS College. She proposed establishing an advisory board with 12 professors, half appointed by the committee and half elected by the Yale College Faculty, to aid the committee in its efforts.
In a Wednesday night email, Bass said he considered the “context of the precedents and traditions for the Presidential Search at Yale” and decided to select faculty for the committee by nomination and appointment, rather than election.
“I believe the structure we arrived at, which is comparable to the highly successful approach the Yale Corporation used when it selected President Levin, will accomplish the desired participation and input for all constituencies,” Bass said.
The deans and directors of Yale’s schools will review the recommendations and offer their own before Bass makes the final decision, which he said on will come by the end of the week. The search committee will be responsible for nominating candidates for the presidency to the Corporation.
Four professors who emailed Bass about the search committee — three of whom asked that faculty be allowed to elect their representatives — said he has yet to respond. Bass told the News he plans to respond to every message.
To facilitate the process for nominating search committee members, four recent alumni and current student Donna Horning ’13 created a website Monday night that offered community members a template to write letters to Bass. The site noted that most of the trustees already appointed to the committee are from the corporate world, and emphasized the need to appoint members who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the liberal arts.
The creators of the website suggested nominating four faculty members who they claim are willing to serve on the committee — Meg Urry, chair of the Physics Department; George Chauncey ’77 GRD ’89, head of the American studies major; Stephen Pitti ’91, master of Ezra Stiles College and a professor of history; and Joseph Roach, director of the Program in Theater Studies and a Sterling professor. Organizers of the site have encouraged visitors to continue emailing Bass, even though the deadline has passed.
“We’re thrilled that Yalies all over the world — over 3,600 people — visited our site on Tuesday, and that so many faculty, administrators, students, and alumni want to be a part of the decisions that affect the University,” the organizers wrote in a statement to the News on Wednesday. “We’re working now on our next steps for advancing this conversation and contributing to the presidential search process.”
The website’s creators said they will update it by Monday with information on the input they received from visitors.
Levin will officially step down on June 30, 2013.