The Ponytail Dean

By Emily Gold / March / April 2000
October 29th, 2007

Name: Kent Roberts ’00.
Objective: To take control of the faculty.
Qualifications: Fifteen years in academia (as a student), and seven semesters at Brown (passing all but two courses).

While his peers send résumés for entry-level jobs, Kent Roberts is angling to be Brown’s next dean of the faculty. Never mind that candidates must be tenured professors with a “distinguished record of scholarship.” As dean, the first thing he would do is add the words “or not” to those qualifications. His leadership experience, he says, is indisputable ­ he was president of his high-school class. Roberts is even willing to make the ultimate sacrifice: “I am aware,” he wrote in his application, “that as dean of the faculty, it is ethically mandatory that I discontinue sexual relations with my undergraduate girlfriend.”

Although he meets few of the formal requirements, Roberts thinks he would be “really great” as a dean. His only agenda would be “seeing that things are fair,” he says. By virtue of his age, not to mention his ponytail and T-shirt, he’d be a bridge between students and the administration, he adds. Still, Roberts knew from the outset that his chances are slim. The search-committee chair sent him a disqualification letter shortly after he filed his application.

Not everyone dismissed him so quickly, Roberts says brightly. Word of his application generated a flurry of encouraging e-mails from faculty. “The prospect of a Gen Y dean intrigues,” one professor wrote. Another added, “A sense of humor goes a long way in the deanship.” Another professor, after wishing Roberts the best of luck, wrote, “I think you will do about as good a job as any candidate.”

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March / April 2000