As residential college masters welcome the class of 2019 this August, four of the 12 will be freshmen themselves.
After the masters of Silliman, Timothy Dwight, Saybrook and Morse colleges announced their intentions to step down at the end of the academic year, administrators have met with four separate committees charged with selecting their successors. Each committee includes undergraduates and fellows who are particularly involved in college life, with one fellow serving as chair. And after soliciting student feedback, these committees recommended between three and eight names to Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and University President Peter Salovey several weeks ago, the last step in the process before candidates are approached with their respective offers.
With the meetings completed, Holloway said the names of two masters will be announced before spring break, and two afterwards.
While Holloway acknowledged it is slightly concerning to have so much turnover in so little time, he said it also presents a moment of regeneration for the colleges.
“The Council [of Masters] will certainly change, because we’re seeing a lot of experience stepping down over this year and next year,” Holloway said. “But it’s an incredible opportunity for new people to invest their particular perception or notion of what the residential college world is like.”
Silliman Master Judith Krauss, chair of the Council of Masters, echoed the sentiment.
“Whenever new masters join the council there are opportunities for new directions, [which are] welcome opportunities,” Krauss said. “We are always rethinking our policies and work based on the ‘here and now’ and ‘future’ considerations, and having new members is a plus.”
Josh Rosenfeld ’16, a member of the Morse search committee, said he and other members collected student input through an online survey, a town hall meeting and open office hours with committee members. In particular, the committee asked students for their thoughts on how Morse could be improved, the attributes of a good master and any specific people who would suit the college culture well.
Other colleges have employed similar processes. On Jan. 16, chair of the Silliman search committee and professor of music theory Daniel Harrison invited all Silliman students to a town hall to take place Jan. 21, noting that student input would be a major factor in the committee’s recommendation to Salovey.
Max Wilkinson ’16, a member of the Silliman committee, said Holloway and Salovey seemed receptive to feedback during their meeting. However, it is difficult to ensure that one of their recommended candidates will be selected, given that some candidates decline the position due to the time commitment.
Eight members of the respective search committees declined to comment on the nature of their deliberations.
Students interviewed agreed that their primary concern was to have a master who took an interest in individual students and made their respective colleges as family-oriented as possible. Several students in Morse expressed their preference for a candidate in one of the STEM fields.
Silliman resident Frazer Tessema ’17 said he hopes the new Silliman master has a visible presence on campus much like former Dean Hugh Flick, who retired last year. Tessema said it would be nice to have a younger master who would ideally remain in the college for many years.
Timothy Dwight resident Katerra Logan ’17 said it would be nice to have a master with a young family, but that it would be difficult to replace current Master Jeffrey Brenzel regardless.
“Whomever they choose, I would hope that he or she would cherish doing the small things like casually eating meals with us in the dining hall or taking the time out to make sure we’re doing well, or wishing us luck in our respective extracurriculars,” she said. “Just the small things like that make a huge difference.”