November 5, 2003

University Dean Searches Progress

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The University is currently administering searches for new deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, College of Human Ecology and the Cornell Law School.

Senior writers Brian Kaviar and Brian Tsao will review the four searches, some of which are at different stages of the process.

Law School Dean Search Narrows to Five

Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin released the five finalists for the position of dean of the Cornell Law School on Oct. 2 — a list which included three University-based candidates.

The search committee, consisting mainly of faculty members from the law school, the provost and vice provost, started its discussions last spring after Lee E. Teitelbaum, the former Allan R. Tessler Dean of Cornell Law School, announced his resignation due to “compelling family reasons” last November.

The finalists: Prof. Stewart Schwab, law; Prof. David Wippman, law; Prof. John Siliciano ’75, interim Allan R. Tessler Dean of Cornell Law School; Stephen Yeazell, David G. Price and Dallas P. Price Professor of Law, UCLA; and Bryant Garth, director of the American Bar Foundation, were selected after a period of evaluating external and internal nominations for the position.

“I was honored to have been chosen as a finalist,” Schwab said. “I know each of the other four candidates. Each is impressive and would make a good dean for the law school. I am pleased to be in such good company.”

Martin said that some of the features that the committee was looking for included administrative experience, ambition, character, scholarship and commitment to teaching and students. Although there was a vast variety of characteristics the group was looking for, members also understood that it would be difficult to find a perfect candidate.

“Of course, no candidate will have strength in all areas, so there are trade-offs,” said Prof. Sheri Johnson, law, one of the members of the search committee. “Moreover, different committee members would weigh these qualities differently.”

In the next step of evaluation, applicants undergo a two-day interview period on campus. Events include meetings with administrators and faculty members, deans of other University colleges and a conversation with President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77.

The external candidates, Garth and Yeazell, completed their on-campus interviews two weeks ago. The two-day interviews will conclude next Friday as Schwab is the last candidate in this part of the process.

“I had a great, if exhausting time and came away impressed with the administrative staff, faculty, and students — all of whom asked some very tough questions about my background, my potential approach as dean at Cornell and even my research,” Garth said of his visit.

According to Martin, the interview gives an opportunity for the faculty, students and staff to interact and send feedback to the committee about the potential replacements. In addition, the University also makes an effort to interest external candidates by helping them become more familiar with the institution through tours and various meetings.

Three unranked finalists will be submitted to Lehman after the committee reviews the candidates’ credentials and their on-campus interviews. Martin said that they will assess the finalists on the same criteria which were used in the previous evaluation round. Lehman will personally select the new dean.

“The committee anticipates that its recommendation to the president will be made by the end of this semester,” Johnson said.

Arts Dean Search

The search for an Arts Dean has resumed this semester. The position became vacant after Martin asked Philip Lewis, who was on vacation, to resign from his Harold Tanner Deanship via e-mail during the summer of 2002. The action was deemed controversial by a number of members of the Cornell community.

The search for a new Arts Dean failed last year as the University of Chicago’s Mathematics Chair, Robert Fefferman, declined the position as Arts Dean to instead take on responsibilities as Dean of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago. In a Sun article earlier this semester, Fefferman said the decision “came down to a matter of lifestyle” and that he was remaining at University of Chicago “for my whole family.”

G. Peter Lepage, former Chair of the Cornell Physics Department and member of the original Arts Dean search committee, was selected to replace Lewis on an interim basis for the current academic year in lieu of Fefferman’s decision.

According to Martin, “we are not starting over,” noting that the search consists both of looking at new candidates and “going back through our list.”

Martin explained why Day Hall decided to place an interim dean in the Arts College in response to Fefferman’s decision. “Fefferman took a really long time to make his decision,” Martin said. “At the time it was probably the primary reason we did not try to go back through the list.”

The search is currently identifying potential internal and external prospects to be candidates. One hope is that they might find a candidate who had various reasons preventing them from entering the search last year which no longer exist this year.

According to Martin, the search committee is looking for qualities similar to those considered last year. In an e-mail to The Sun, Lepage said the previous search committee, “wanted a distinguished scholar and teacher, with demonstrated administrative experience and skill. They wanted someone with a strong commitment to excellence in liberal arts education, and to diversity in the academy. They wanted a risk taker, and a fundraiser.”

Martin noted that one major difference between an Arts search and those in other Colleges is that the chosen dean “has to have a good idea of the centrality of the Arts College” and its role as an interface for other colleges in the university.

One difference between this year’s search and last year’s search is that, according to Martin, “at least a significant number of faculty feel that an internal member may be preferred” for the Arts deanship.

Lepage has said that he wants to keep the possibility open of being the next Harold Tanner Dean. “I have asked the search committee to consider me as a candidate,” he said.

According to Martin, the Arts Dean search “may conclude before the end of the semester.”

AAP and Hum Ec Dean Searches

Yesterday, position announcements were released in the search for new deans of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and the College of Human Ecology. Both searches are in the preliminary stages with their open phases just beginning.

Because of the number of major dean searches this year, staff positions were created to support them. Michael Matier, director of Institutional Research and Planning, was selected to head the support staff.

“Cornell traditionally has the Provost chair the search committees,” Matier said, going on to note that with four searches running concurrently, the Provost decided to create the position of Search Manager to assist with the AAP and HumEc efforts.

Matier emphasized that his efforts are “background” ones and that Martin still is the real force moving the searches.

According to Martin, it is likely that the AAP and HumEc search committees will have a list of finalists by March.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar