Sunday, November 16, 2008

College and Univ. Presidents: Snapshots of Academic “Glory”

By Brian C. Nachbar and Andrew B. Lohse | Sunday, November 16, 2008

Editor’s Note: As Dartmouth’s Presidential Search Committee interviews potential candidates for the job, The Dartmouth Review presents our own list of possibilities below. As always, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly—we’ll let you determine which is which. More depth of coverage is given to the liberal arts institutions as Dartmouth is, in spirit and character, a liberal arts college.

AMHERST: Anthony W. Marx

Anthony Marx became president of Amherst College in 2003. Before that, he served Columbia University for thirteen years as professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Political Science. Marx had previously participated in the founding of Khanya College, a secondary school in South Africa with the primary purpose of preparing black students for university education. He had also founded a program at Columbia to recruit and train teachers for public high schools.

When Marx appeared before Amherst’s Presidential Search Committee, he outlined his vision: true to his name, the vision was a crusade against socioeconomic inequality. Marx feared that elite colleges were perpetuating the economic gap in America rather than promoting social mobility. The board was sympathetic, and Marx got the job. Once in office, he instituted new class-based affirmative action in admissions. Marx coupled this policy with an increase in total enrollment so that the college would not become more exclusive for more affluent applicants. Marx also sought an expansion of financial aid to attract the most qualified low-income applicants; total need-based grants increased by about 50 percent from 2003 to 2007. Marx also recently removed loans from all student aid packages.

Marx’s plan has met some opposition. Critics have expressed concerns that lowering admissions standards for low-income students could harm Amherst’s elite reputation. Others have argued that such students are typically less prepared than their more affluent peers and therefore might struggle in the college’s rigorous classes. Marx made his priorities clear to the Board before he became president, and his tenure had upheld the vision he articulated.

WILLIAMS: Morton O. Schapiro

Morton Schapiro assumed the presidency of Williams College in 2000. He had previously spent eleven years at Williams as an economics professor. He served at the University of Southern California as Chair of the Department of Economics and then Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences before returning to Williams. As an economist he rather aptly specializes in the economics of higher education and has written books such as Paying the Piper: Productivity, Incentives and Financing in Higher Education.

Since becoming president, Schapiro has reduced Williams’ average class size and added more of the college’s two-student tutorial classes. In a more controversial move, his administration introduced the anchor housing plan in 2004. The plans divides the residential buildings into clusters and encourage social interaction on the cluster level. This would be accomplished primarily by requiring students to remain in the same cluster from year to year after their freshman year, although there is a transfer process. The plan met with heavy student criticism when it was proposed, and even with changes many students continued to oppose the new system. Nonetheless, Schapiro’s administration has implemented anchor housing.

The recent economic downturn presents a test for Schapiro’s financial mettle, as Williams’ endowment has fallen from $1.8 billion to about $1.3 billion. Schapiro held a question and answer session with students to discuss how he would respond. He said he was considering increasing tuition, cutting department budgets, and enrolling more students. He all but ruled out staff layoffs and the relaxation of Williams’ need-blind domestic admissions policy, although he admitted the possibility of curbing the need-blind policy for international students. He also rejected the idea of accepting more early decision students, who are less likely to need financial aid, considering such a move a de facto abandonment of need-blindness. Schapiro also requested input from students and faculty about frill programs which could be cut.

Morton Schapiro was a finalist in Dartmouth’s 1999 presidential search.

COLGATE: Rebecca S. Chopp

Rebecca S. Chopp took over Colgate University’s presidency in 2002, leaving behind a position as a dean and professor of theology at Yale Divinity School. She had previously served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory.

In 2003, Chopp’s administration unveiled the New Vision for Residential Education. As part of the plan, Colgate would purchase all Greek houses on campus to facilitate their incorporation into a unified, administration-supervised “Broad Street Community.” Any fraternity or sorority which refused to sell or give its house to the university would be derecognized; joining a derecognized house would result in suspension or expulsion. Most houses agreed to the administration’s terms, but Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity refused to part with its house and filed a lawsuit against Colgate, alleging violation of antitrust laws and the First Amendment-protected right to freedom of assembly, among other claims. DKE brothers and sympathetic students formed Freedom of Association: the Coalition for Truth (FACT) and held a rally in protest against the plan. Chopp was unmoved. The plan proceeded. DKE was derecognized, and the lawsuit was dismissed.

During the conflict over the New Vision for Residential Education, one Jeff Cicero ’06 circulated an e-mail protesting Colgate’s policy. In a reductio ad absurdum argument, he reasoned that the logic behind the university’s regulation of the entire Greek system in response to the excesses of individuals within that system would also lead to racist policies in response to infractions by individual minority students. Chopp’s administration sent out its own mailing to the entire student body, much of which had not read Cicero’s e-mail. Chopp’s message denounced the argument as a racist attack on minority students. It also implied that this racism was widespread among opponents of the administration’s plan.

In 2006, eight independent candidates, including former president of FACT Sean Devlin ’05, ran for election to the Colgate Alumni Corporation Board of Trustees. These candidates were the first in the organization’s history to challenge those chosen by the sitting Board, leading to the first contested election. The challengers protested, among other things, Colgate’s limitations of free speech and the Vision for Residential Education. The university responded by denying the alternative candidates access to alumni contact information and the university itself mailed literature to the alumni that supported of the Board’s chosen slate. As a result, the alternative candidates lost, receiving about 34 percent of the vote.

The Chopp administration, in short, has uncannily paralleled the worst policies of the Wright administration.

PRINCETON: Shirley M. Tilghman

Tilghman is Princeton University’s nineteenth President. Prior to being elected President, she was a Molecular Biology professor for fifteen years, holding an honors B.S.c from Queens College and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Temple University. Before coming to Princeton, President Tilghman’s work at the National Institute of Health produced important breakthroughs in the work of cloning the first mammalian gene; indeed, Tilghman is a well known and respected research scientist and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Developmental Biology, the Award for Women in Science from L’Oreal-UNESCO, and the Genetics Society of America Medal. Besides her position at Princeton, Tilghman is also a director of Google and a trustee for the Jackson Laboratory and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

HARVARD: Drew Gilpin Faust

Like Dartmouth’s James Wright, Harvard’s President Drew Gilpin Faust is a history professor. Before taking office on July 1, 2007 as Harvard’s twenty eighth President, Faust served as the first Dean of the Radcliffe Institute, and helped to renovate and revitalize the institution and establish its fellowship program as a prestigious prize for scholars in Women and Gender Studies. Prior to leading Radcliffe, President Faust was a member of the University of Pennsylvania’s faculty for twenty five years, serving as the Annenberg professor of history and director of the Women’s Studies program.

Faust graduated summa cum laude with honors and a bachelor in history from Bryn Mawr College. Before taking a position on Penn’s faculty, she completed both her masters and doctoral degrees in American Civilization from the school. President Faust has authored six books, won a veritable slew of awards, and acts as a trustee and board member for many venerable institutions, including Bryn Mawr College, The Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Humanities Center, and The Guggenheim Foundation

YALE: Richard C. Levin

Serving as President since 1993, Richard C. Levin holds a B.A. from Stanford and a Ph.D. from Yale in economics. Prior to his role as Yale’s President, Levin was a member of the school’s faculty for nineteen years, a tenure culminating in positions as chair of the economics department and dean of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. So far into his term at the helm at New Haven’s venerable ivy league institution, Levin has overseen massive billion-dollar expansions and renovations of university facilities, including the purchase of the 500,000 square foot Bayer HealthCare complex, a billion-dollar science and engineering initiative, a joint Yale-New Haven home ownership program, and a new trustees-approved plan to expand the school with two new residential colleges.

Among his work steering an old and deeply respected university like Yale, President Levin is also an advocate, and indeed leader, for the new “environmental mumbo-jumbo” movement that is popular in top tier schools; in 2005, he founded Yale’s “Office of Sustainability” and in 2007-2008 he led a group of other collegiate presidents in the discussion of how their institutions can fight the “climate change crisis.” Levin is also a director of American Express, a member of the National Committee on US-China relations, and a trustee of Hewlett-Packard.

CORNELL: David J. Skorton

Cornell’s twelfth President, David J. Skorton, took office in 2006 after serving as the President of the University of Iowa for three years and as a professor there since 1981. At Cornell, Skorton also holds professorial positions in biomedical engineering and internal engineering. President Skorton is the true definition of a renaissance man: on top of being a board-certified cardiologist, he is also a jazz musician and a computer scientist. He holds both his B.A. and M.D. in psychology from Northwestern University.

COLUMBIA: Lee C. Bollinger

Serving since 2002 as Columbia’s nineteenth President, Lee C. Bollinger is a distinguished law professor and First Amendment scholar defined by his supportive stance on affirmative action and his prominence in two important Supreme Court cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. The latter case upheld “the importance of diversity as a compelling justification for affirmative action in higher education.”

At Columbia, Bollinger has led the school’s largest capital campaign in history, spearheaded university investment in upper Manhattan, launched the prominent World Leaders Forum, and presided over a record number of applications to the school. Prior to becoming Columbia’s President, Bollinger served as a University of Michigan law professor beginning in 1973, then dean of its Law School, and finally President of the University from 1996-2002. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Columbia University Law School. In addition to his post at Columbia, Bollinger is a director of the Washington Post and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company of Great Britain, and a member of the Pulitzer Prize board.

PENN: Amy Gutmann

Since her inauguration as Penn’s eighth president on July 1st, 2004, Dr. Amy Gutmann has charted an ambitious course for her institution’s future, the typical Ivy fare of intense capital campaigns, alumni loyalty drives, and University “visions” to focus their institutions as “dynamic agents of social, economic, and civic progress.” A highlight of her tenure as Penn’s leader thus far is Penn’s replacement of loans for grants for students of families making less than $60,000 a year.

Gutmann is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College; she additionally earned her masters in political science from the London School of Economics, and her doctorate in political science from Harvard. Before becoming Penn’s President, Gutmann served as the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics at Princeton; she also rose to the positions of Provost and Dean of Faculty. In addition to her role as Penn’s President, Gutmann also still actively teaches as the university’s Christopher H. Browne Professor of Political Science. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Carnegie Corporation and the Vanguard Corporation and the Board of Trustees of the National Constitution Center.

BROWN: Ruth J. Simmons

Ruth J. Simmons was inaugurated to her post as Brown’s eighteenth President in 2001. Simmons is a graduate of Dillard University and holds her Ph.D. in Romance Languages from Harvard.

As an administrator, President Simmons has an unimpeachable resume of achievement having held posts at Princeton, the University of Southern California, Spelman College, and Smith College, where she served as President and is best known for starting the institution’s engineering program—the first one at an American women’s college. Simmons is also a professor of comparative literature and of Africana studies at Brown. Outside of the university she is a member of the Howard University Board of Trustees and a board member of Texas Instruments and Goldman Sachs.

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