August 26, 2002

Dean of Arts Resigns

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According to an e-mail obtained by The Sun last week, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin has asked Philip Lewis, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, to resign. The e-mail was sent to College of Arts and Sciences department chairs on July 16.

The message said that Martin spoke to Lewis on the matter in recent e-mail exchanges, responding to “a series of disagreements he has had with her on behalf of the College and its faculty. [Martin] believes that his disagreements with the central administration on a range [of] issues amount to a negative attitude and make him the wrong leader for the College at this time.”

The authors of the e-mail message, Jonathan Culler and Paul Houston, both senior associate deans of the college, declined to comment. They stated in the message, however, that “we think it likely that [Martin] will initiate a search in the fall and that [Lewis] will continue in office until a successor is chosen.”

“I’m particularly surprised that a president who’s stepping down himself has refused to let Lewis stay on to provide stability to the college,” Culler said in an interview with The Sun.

According to Lewis, the president and the provost have asked him to resign, effective June 30, 2003.

“After much reflection, I have agreed to [resign] since it appears that there are irreconcilable differences in our viewpoints,” he stated in an e-mail sent to faculty and staff on July 29.

“After taking a leave during the academic year 2003-04, I plan to return to the faculty in the Department of Romance Studies,” he continued.

Culler’s and Houston’s e-mail also raised questions of procedure.

“The Dean is the representative of the College as well as a member of the Central Administration’s team,” it stated, “and for the Provost to request his resignation, without consultation with the faculty, when there is no question of malfeasance or mismanagement might be regarded as a blow to faculty governance and a dangerous precedent.”

Lewis himself elected Martin to the position of senior associate dean of the college in 1996; she became the University’s provost on July 1, 2000. She was previously a professor in German studies with a joint appointment in the women’s studies program.

Lewis became acting dean of the college in July 1995 and was named to serve a five-year term as dean in July 1996. He was previously an associate dean and on the faculty of romance studies.

“There have certainly been differences in personality and leadership styles between Rawlings and Lewis,” Culler said.

Don M. Randel, the former dean of the arts college and former provost, said in a 1996 announcement of Lewis’s appointment: “There will inevitably be differences of opinion with any dean worthy of the name. With [Lewis], one can be confident that those differences, as well as the agreements, will be profoundly principled and that the level of discourse surrounding them will represent the standards to which a university community ought always to aspire.”

Randel, who is president of the University of Chicago, could not be reached for further comment. Martin also could not be reached for comment.

Culler and Houston also suggested that the departments chairs hold a meeting to discuss the issue further.

“It is going to be difficult for Phil to be a strong advocate for the College in the coming year, and we need your thoughts about how to deal with this problem as well,” they stated.

Lewis stated that he will continue to be an effective dean in the coming year.

“During the remainder of my term, I shall continue to try to represent our interests thoughtfully while working with members of our faculty and staff to facilitate the search for a new dean and an orderly transition.”

Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, and Lynne Abel, associate dean for undergraduate admissions and education, declined to comment.

According to Culler, department chairs in the arts colleges are “quite disturbed” by the decision.

“It’s a great shame not to have him here to help a new president,” he said.


Archived article by Andy Guess