After five years as Dean of University Faculty, Charles Walcott Ph.D. ’59 will be concluding his term and retiring as a faculty member this June. This announcement will affect many of Cornell’s faculty and administration members who regard Walcott as a beloved member of the Cornell family.
“I would like to say that it has been a pleasure to work with Charlie over the duration of his deanship,” Provost Biddy Martin stated in an e-mail. “I admire his dedication, even-handedness and wisdom and believe he has served the faculty and the entire University extremely well.”
Election ballots for his successor were distributed to the faculty in mid-February and are due March 7. The three candidates are: Prof. William Fry, plant pathology; Prof. Jennifer Gerner, policy analysis and management; and Prof. Daniel Loucks, civil and environmental engineering.
“There is a Nominations and Elections Committee, which is in charge of all elections to University faculty positions, and this committee made a list of people that they thought would be good as dean. We finally found three candidates who I think any one of which would do an excellent job and were willing to run,” said Walcott.
The entire faculty elects the Dean of University Faculty every three years, with a possible two-year extension contingent on a Faculty Senate vote. According to Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, while it is possible for a dean of University faculty to run for an additional three-year elected term, during the past half-century or more, none at Cornell have served longer than five years, which includes an elected term and a reappointment.
[img_assist|nid=28332|title=Bittersweet ending|desc=Charlie Walcott, dean of faculty, leads a discussion about academic integrity at the fifth meeting of the graduate and professional student assembly on Feb. 11.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The dean of the University faculty plays an integral role in representing the faculty and its interests. More often than not, he or she acts as a channel through which the interests and needs of the faculty and the administration are communicated and resolved.
“Your job is to clearly represent the faculty and its interests to the administration and the Board of Trustees. Since you have 1,594 different bosses, all of whom have his or her own opinions about what ought to be done, it is an interesting job,” said Walcott. “Many faculty members have one view of trustees and trustees have one view of faculty, and I think by having meetings twice a year between the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate and a group of trustees, the ground is better prepared for conversation rather than confrontation.”
Reflecting back on his tenure as dean, Walcott did not point to any one grand accomplishment, maintaining that it was all the little things he did to improve faculty and administrative relationships that made him successful. However, one initiative that he will leave unfinished is a thorough reexamination of the University’s policies and procedures on academic integrity.
“I feel very strongly that academic integrity is really the cornerstone of the University — it is something that has not received enough attention from any of us. I think it is something we need as a community to have a conversation about,” said Walcott. “The new dean will take over and if the new dean is not interested [in reexamining academic integrity at the University], then it may whither on the vine.”
A native of Cambridge, Mass., Charles Walcott concurrently holds positions as dean of the University faculty and professor of neurobiology and behavior. He received his B.A. from Harvard in biology before attending Cornell for graduate studies. Graduating in 1959, he served on the faculties of Harvard, Tufts and SUNY Stonybrook before coming to Cornell as director of the Laboratory of Ornithology in 1981. In June of 1995, he retired as the Louis Aggasiz Fuertes Director to return to teaching and research, including teaching the introductory biology course for majors.