After months of planning, the administration is increasing faculty leadership.
In a memo sent to members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Wednesday afternoon, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler announced the appointment of three divisional deans who will oversee the long-term strategic planning of the Humanities, Social Sciences and the Sciences. Gendler said that Morse College Master Amy Hungerford will assume the Divisional Directorship of the Humanities, political science professor Alan Gerber ’86 will be the new Director of the Social Sciences and chemistry professor Scott Miller will be the Divisional Director of the Sciences.
Gendler explained that each division is advised by a standing committee of tenured faculty that has two main purposes: As “Advisory Committees,” chaired by a tenured member of the faculty, they meet regularly to assess the appointment needs and strategic plans of the departments and programs in their areas and as “Tenure Appointments and Promotion Committees” they meet to evaluate cases of promotion and tenure within the FAS. The term “Divisional Director” was used to refer to the faculty chairs of these advisory committees.
While Gendler acknowledged that the new titles will take time to get used to, she said the expanded role of Divisional Directors aims to draw together the FAS structure.
“It is my hope that this new role will ensure that faculty are present, effective and fully informed in the most central decision-making and strategic planning both within and across departments and divisions in ways that will allow us, together, to build an even stronger FAS,” Gendler said in the memo.
While the Divisional Director positions are only half-time, allowing the professors to continue their research and teaching, they involve responsibilities such as defining division priorities and providing resources aligned with those priorities.
Hungerford, who is stepping down as master of Morse College at the end of the academic year to fill this new position, said that her role as Divisional Director for the Humanities will allow her to respond to tenure and promotion cases as well as communicate broader goals to University leadership.
“The divisional director can have an ear to the ground at all times in the division, and can help information about the faculty’s intellectual priorities to be factored in fully as the dean of the faculty, the provost and the Faculty Resource Committee make decisions about how resources are allocated,” she said in an email. Gerber and Miller could not be reached for comment.
While some faculty members said they were not adequately informed on the changes to comment at this time, others were optimistic about the new roles.
English professor Wai Chee Dimock GRD ’82 said she feels like the faculty are now in a world in which “knowledge is being redefined, and from the ground up.”
“The redefined Divisional Director positions could be one step toward making Yale a truly 21st century university in its intellectual innovations,” she said.
Dimock added that the redefined Divisional Director positions enhance the University’s ability to respond to new discoveries and knowledge that develop outside of traditional fields. For example, she said, some of the most exciting scientific discoveries are coming now from synergy across the physical and biological sciences. A Divisional Director for the Sciences at home in both these intellectual areas would significantly improve Yale’s ability to respond to those broad reconfigurations, she added.
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley said the changes announced yesterday are a big improvement.
“The new structure will build more capacity for strategic planning across the divisions,” Cooley added.
In January, members of the FAS released a report that closely examined Yale’s administrative structure as well as those of 10 peer institutions. It concluded that — due to excessive responsibilities for the University’s senior leadership, opaque lines of communication and the lack of a centralized, long-term vision for the FAS — a fundamental restructuring of governance in the faculty of arts and sciences was necessary, in the form of the creation of a new dean position. The proposed new model from the committee also suggested the introduction of three to five additional deans responsible for various academic areas, reporting to the FAS dean.
Hungerford, Gerber and Miller will assume their Divisional Director posts within the next year.