March 11, 2003

Search for New Arts Dean Narrows to Four

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Yesterday, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin announced the names of four finalists in the search for a new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The candidates are Robert Fefferman, the Louis Block Professor of Mathematics at the University of Chicago; Prof. David J. Helfand, chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Columbia University; Prof. John Carlos Rowe, English and comparative literature and director of African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine; and Joan Hinde Stewart, dean of liberal arts at the University of South Carolina.

“The committee has reviewed the qualifications of over a hundred external and internal prospects and interviewed a total of thirteen candidates before deciding on a list of four finalists,” said Martin, also the chair of the search committee. “The committee has worked very hard and thought very deeply about what would be best for the college.”

The search committee consisted of 14 faculty members, including Prof. Sandra Greene, history; Prof. Peter Lepage, physics and Prof. Sally McConnell-Ginet, linguistics.

“We wanted someone who was committed to undergraduate education in a liberal arts college within an undergraduate research university,” said Prof. James Webster, music, a member of the committee. “A lot of splendid people don’t fit one or the other of those criteria.”

The committee has met weekly since the search began on Sept. 5, 2002. Possible candidates were determined by nominations from faculty and staff within the Cornell community, contacts with colleagues at other institutions and through the use of an independent search firm. The committee then began the long process of narrowing the candidates down to a list of finalists.

“We have been meeting constantly since the first semester [of the search],” said Prof. Jeffrey Doyle, biology, a member of the committee. “It’s been a very thorough process.”

Now that the candidate pool has been reduced to four, the committee plans to bring the finalists to visit Cornell and conduct on-campus interviews within the next several weeks.

The candidates will meet with a number of groups and individuals including the search committee, department chairs, President Hunter R. Rawlings III, President-elect Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 and selected groups of undergraduate and graduate students.

Following the campus visits, the selection process will be turned over to both Rawlings and Lehman.

“The search committee will submit an unranked list of three finalists to [Rawlings] and [Lehman] for a final decision,” Martin said.

While the committee has been charged with the task of delivering three names, Webster noted that the committee may alter that task and deliver four names if they have a justifiable reason to do so.

“We have a special situation right now,” Doyle said. “With a president leaving and a new one coming in, there will be a consultation between the two of them. We choose the candidates and they make the decision.”

The committee’s job description, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Black Issues and Hispanic Outlook, described an ideal candidate who is “a distinguished scholar and teacher who also has administrative experience, preferably in a large, complex academic organization.”

The new dean is expected to begin his or her term on July 1, 2003, taking the place of Philip E. Lewis, the Harold Tanner Dean of the arts college, who has resigned effective June 30, 2003.

Martin and Rawlings asked Lewis to resign last July after a series of disagreements with the University administration. Following the end of his term, Lewis will remain at Cornell, working in the Department of Romance Studies after a sabbatical.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco