The University received a shake-up today when Dartmouth College announced that University Provost Philip Hanlon was elected to serve as the school’s 18th president. The University is expected to choose an interim provost until the next University president is chosen. The next president will then likely choose a permanent provost. It should be expected that the interim provost will maintain the high standards set by Hanlon — such as putting an emphasis on undergraduate affairs and working to decrease tuition rates — and look to guide the University through changing and difficult times in the world of higher education.
Hanlon received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth in 1977. He will assume the position as president of Dartmouth College on July 1, 2013 and succeed Jim Yong Kim, who left to become president of the World Bank some months ago. In a campus-wide e-mail, University President Mary Sue Coleman wrote that she will name an interim provost in the “upcoming weeks.”
The creation of an interim position is the best option for this time because the position of president is also in flux as University President Mary Sue Coleman’s contract expires in 2014. Due to the close working relationship between the president and the provost, it would be best if the new incoming president were given the option of choosing the associate he or she will be working with. Vice Provost Martha Pollack would be ideal for this transitory period as a result of her close work with Hanlon. As the head of academic budget for the University, the provost exercises significant influence over aspects of student life, of which tuition cost is the most critical example.
Hanlon exemplified the best characteristics of a provost. He was dedicated to the undergraduate population, a characteristic that is often undervalued at large research universities. Hanlon has even taught undergraduate level Calculus I classes and he and Pollack also taught a class about the University’s budget process this fall, which demonstrated an important and consistent link to students. Hanlon always put undergraduates at the forefront of his administrative agenda. He is also credited with minimizing the damage of a $47.5-million drop in state funding in 2011. When the University’s Board of Regents voted for tuition increases for the 2012-2013 academic year, Hanlon said “financial aid was the highest priority in this budget.” Consequently, he pushed for administrative aid for University students to have a true undergraduate experience without high tuition costs. The University needs an interim, and then a permanent provost, who continues Hanlon’s example by focusing on undergraduate education.