September 4, 2008

Committee Seeks More Transparency in Provost Search

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The search for the next University provost is underway. Calling all members of the Cornell community to offer input, the Provost Search Committee sent a University-wide e-mail over the summer requesting nominations.
The committee will be looking internally for Biddy Martin’s replacement. It will narrow the nominations to compile a short list of candidates from which President David Skorton will then choose the next provost.
With hopes of completing their task by October, the search committee stopped accepting nominations yesterday.
“We have to do our job quickly,” Prof. Martha Haynes, astronomy, and Chair of the Provost Search Committee, said. “But we do not want to rush. With such an important decision, we must take our time and be deliberate.”
The search committee established a website through which people can submit nominations. All Cornell community members — from the NYC to the Qatar campuses — can place their votes for the next provost.
According to Haynes, the committee met with Martin as well as Skorton in order to “gain some of sense of what the job was about” and help the committee know what to look for.
Haynes said that the committee will compile a list with candidates, “any of whom, we would feel comfortable having as the next provost.”
She said, “In the end, they have to work together and complement each other, so he should choose.”
Haynes sees the Cornell campus as full of possibilities.
“There are some really excellent people here, and we know we have some good leaders here already,” Haynes said. “That’s why Cornell chooses internally.”
Haynes said she is impressed not only with the candidates, but also the nominators. Though she would not disclose any of the people who had been nominated, she noted that quality of the nominations was impressive.
“The nominations have been really well thought out,” Haynes said. “People on campus are really engaged in this discussion and their comments have been extremely helpful.”
The University welcomed nominations from the community, but the search will not be an entirely transparent process. Everything henceforth will be confidential.
The search committee is comprised of a variety of community members, including two students.
Ryan Lavin ’09, president of the Student Assembly, and Michelle Leinfelder grad, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, will serve on the search committee, representing the student perspective throughout the search process.
“It’s been an interesting experience,” Lavin said. “It’s really a concerted effort of the campus. It’s quite an honor for me to voice the undergraduate opinion … I’m really glad people have reach out to me and I’m relaying their sentiments.”
Lavin said there was a clear favorite among Cornell undergraduates, though would not disclose who.
“I have gotten many e-mails, at least 50 from random undergraduates, who have given me suggestions and there is overwhelming support for a specific candidate,” he said.
While the opinion of the majority has yet to be revealed, former S.A. president and Sun Columnist C.J. Slicklen ’09 said he hopes Michele Moody Adams, vice provost for undergraduate education, is considered for the position.
“With a lot of experience in terms of students, she is a true champion for the undergraduates,” Slicklen said. “Moody will continue to sustain the commitment to excellence that Biddy Martin did.”
According to Haynes, Skorton hopes to have a new provost for Cornell by the end of the year.
That announcement will likely be closely followed by the naming of the replacement for Vice President for Planning and Budget Carolyn Ainslie, who will be chosen by the next provost. The University announced last week that Ainslie would leave for Princeton in October.