The Search

May 3rd, 2007
Whoever the eighteenth president of Brown turns out to be, one thing is certain: he (or she) will have faced more on-campus scrutiny than the seventeenth.

Already the Corporation has been soliciting campus opinion, if not on individual candidates, then on what qualities a Brown president should have. In February, Chancellor Stephen Robert ’62 and other Corporation officers held three on-campus forums to listen to the views of faculty, students, and staff.

Under the Brown charter, the Corporation must pick the president, but in recent years search committee members have sought the advice of a nonvoting campus analogue, which this time consists of thirteen professors, students, and administrators.

Not surprisingly, faculty argue that the next president must be an intellectual leader with a passion for scholarship. Professor of Political Science Nancy Rosenblum, the vice chair of the last campus advisory committee, suggests that faculty should play a larger role by gathering views from colleagues at a candidate’s home institution.

Also not surprisingly, some students have asked for more influence over the choice. More than 700 students have signed a Third World Action petition calling for the campus advisory group to have a vote in the final selection.

All of this campus involvement is a contrast to the role of the advisory committee three years ago, when Gee was selected. To protect candidates from jeopardizing their current jobs, the names of the finalists were withheld from everyone on the advisory committee except the chair and vice chair – a policy some Corporation members have since questioned. As a result, the entire campus advisory committee interviewed only one candidate – Gordon Gee – and only after his appointment was imminent. "It was rather frustrating for members of the committee," says Professor of Anthropology David Kertzer, its chair.

This time, says Robert, who heads the Corporation search, the advisory group will be a partner "from start to finish."

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Related Issue
January / February 2005