September 2, 2005

Search Committee To Add Two Profs

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Prof. Charles Walcott, dean of University faculty, announced yesterday that two additional faculty members will be added as full members to the Presidential Search Committee.

These members will be chosen from a list of four or five candidates suggested by the Nominations and Elections Committee, made up of nine elected faculty members.

In addition, Walcott announced that toward the end of the search, a small group of faculty will be able to visit with the final candidates and subsequently give their opinions on the candidates to the full committee.

According to a Cornell News Service press release, Walcott said that the additions were a direct result of Tuesday’s meeting of the search committee with Cornell faculty, where a full Kaufmann Auditorium raised their hands after Walcott asked the room if faculty should have more involvement in the search.

Many of the faculty members at the meeting expressed concerns over the surprise departure of former President Jeffrey S. Lehman’s ’77, the secrecy surrounding the departure, the effect it has had on Cornell and the impact they believe it will have on the presidential search.

Faculty members spoke about the “autocracy and aloofness of the administration” and the need for a “structure that compels [the administration] to listen.”

Prof. Peter Stein, physics, said that there “is a serious loss of morale because a popular president was apparently fired for reasons unknown.”

Prof. Abby Cohn, linguistics, told the nine-member panel that the presidential search could not be “business as usual.”

“We need a clear, tangible sign of increased substantive faculty participation [in the search],” she said.

In addition, she listed five possible changes to the search process that could get faculty more involved.

Among these suggestions were the two announced by Walcott.

In addition, she suggested that a “shadow” faculty search committee be formed, that additional faculty members be added to the committee toward the end of the search and that the search be opened toward the end so that faculty, staff and students could meet with the candidates.

Diana Daniels ’71, chair of the search committee said after Tuesday’s meeting that the process could never be opened because “the candidates we’d likely consider will not be willing to come forward on their own [if the search were not closed].”

Peter C. Meinig ’61, Chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees told The Sun after the meeting that he was “very concerned” about the reactions of the faculty members who spoke at the forum.

“There are actions that the search committee can take. They can consider some things,” he said. Daniels told The Sun that the search process was not set in stone and that “if we didn’t want to take suggestions, we wouldn’t have had a forum.”

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun Managing Editor