March 31, 2003

Walcott Named Dean of Faculty

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At the Faculty Senate meeting on March 12, Dean J. Robert Cooke announced the election of Prof. Charles Walcott Ph.D. ’59, neurology and behavior, as the new dean of faculty. Walcott will officially take over the role from Cooke on July 1.

Reacting to the news of the election, Walcott, a faculty member for the last 22 years and associate dean of faculty for the last three, expressed humility.

“I feel honored to be elected by my colleagues,” he said, adding that this support, “entails the responsibility to do a good job.”

According to Walcott, this pressure is especially intense, given the quality of his predecessors.

“They’re a hard act to follow,” he said.

Cooke praised Walcott and expressed a positive outlook for the dean-elect’s tenure.

“Walcott will be a competent and effective successor,” Cooke stated. “[His] long membership in the University faculty, his many leadership roles at Cornell, his respect for the faculty, and his concern for the well-being of the University all point to his being an effective consensus builder and articulate spokesperson for the faculty.”

In addition to his administrative duties as dean of faculty, Walcott plans to continue in his professorial role. In the upcoming year, he is preparing to teach Introductory Biology 101-102 for majors.

Managing these two tasks will require excellent time management. According to Cooke, who taught a class every semester during his five years as dean, the administrative duties require a massive time commitment.

“Teaching requires a three fourths time commitment, and the dean’s responsibilities require a three fourths time commitment,” said Walcott, “That doesn’t leave much time for sleep.”

Walcott feels, however, it’s important for the dean of faculty to deal not only with administration, but also “to continue the research and teaching that are part of the life of a faculty member.”

Both Walcott and Cooke praised the uniqueness of the Cornell system, which allows for the direct election of the dean by the faculty themselves — a practice not followed at many peer institutions. Although only about 30 percent of the eligible faculty members voted, Cooke stressed that the election “provides a direct link of accountability that shapes the role of dean.”

Walcott does not plan to take on his new role with a specific agenda in terms of issue areas. He views the process as continuous, the Faculty Senate and dean dealing with new issues as they arise.

Currently, the major issues under consideration by the Senate include an examination of the status of non-tenure track faculty, revision of copyright policy, suspension policy and the results of an undergraduate survey.

The results of the survey, which sought student input concerning evening prelims, athletics and scheduling, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Walcott, whose introductory biology courses involve evening prelims, is eager to evaluate the issues and bring together student and faculty views in formulating solutions.

As for his expectations for his service as dean of faculty, Walcott simply hopes to follow Cooke’s lead.

“[Dean Cooke] was a champion of evenhandedness and judiciousness,” Walcott said. “He came to resolutions that made sense for everyone. I’d like very much to continue in that tradition.”

Archived article by Michael Dickstein