Provost Peter Salovey has held almost every senior leadership position at Yale. He has been a professor, a department chair, a dean and a provost. We have no doubt his experience will allow him to lead the University capably.
But more importantly, Salovey has been, and continues to be a student of Yale — a true member of the University community. We hope he does not lose this invaluable trait as he assumes the presidency.
His selection is not a surprise. With the University completing a successful 20-year stretch under President Richard Levin’s leadership, the Yale Corporation made a cautious and conservative choice by choosing a candidate from within the administration. While the University missed a chance to select its first woman or minority as president, we believe Salovey’s experience and history of engagement with the broad Yale community make him the right choice — especially for Yale College students.
By all accounts, Salovey was an immensely popular Yale College dean from 2004 to 2008, recognized as an administrator who was eager to interact with the student body. Known for his bluegrass band and his now-departed, deeply missed moustache, Salovey chose to be a personable and relatable administrator, seeming genuinely to enjoy spending time with fellow Yalies. Although the provost position has distanced him from the student body, we are excited to see someone with his amicable reputation find a home in Woodbridge Hall.
While Levin has been a successful administrator, he has at times been perceived as aloof, restrained and managerial. He has chosen to recuse himself from student concerns. In some ways, Levin’s presidency may be defined by this distance — it has been easy for him to make decisions about the University’s future from the standpoint of an effective administrator, rather than as a true representative of the Yale community.
We assume that Salovey will be a greater presence on campus. But that presence carries a responsibility to listen. We hope Salovey will embrace his responsibility to include students and faculty in the future of their university. The discussions surrounding Yale-NUS, the new residential colleges and athletic admissions policies have at times seemed corporate, but they must be made communal. We hope that Salovey will usher in that change.
Last year, Salovey established the very first student advisory committee for the provost’s position, and we encourage him to establish an analogous committee for the presidency. He has co-taught the Great Big Ideas college seminar, and we hope he will continue to engage with the student body in an academic setting.
We hope Salovey will remain a figure among students, and view interaction with undergraduates not as a chore or duty, but an opportunity to engage in constructive conversation about the role of our University and our vision for its future.
If Salovey remains a presence throughout his term, he will not step down to find a student body largely apathetic about the role of the University president. Instead, he will find a student body that cares about the Yale president because the Yale president cares about them.
President Salovey, when you assume Yale’s highest office next year, we hope to see your face — moustached or not — around our campus.