Dean searches may reach closure soon

Exactly one year ago, Shirley Neuman announced her decision to become provost at the University of Toronto after three years as LSA dean. Today, her former position has yet to be permanently filled.

But sociology Prof. James House, chair of the 11th person advisory committee charged with finding a new dean, said the search timeline was delayed because the offices of president and provost remained without permanent occupants until last fall.

“It’s very difficult to move forward to be the dean of LSA, because they’re going to want to know who they’re going to be working with,” House said, explaining why the search committee began work last October.

House said he plans for the committee to submit a final list of candidates by the end of the month to University Provost Paul Courant, who will submit his final recommendation to the University Board of Regents.

“I would be guardedly optimistic that we have a known person by sometime in May,” House said.

He said the list submitted will be diverse – including internal and external candidates, members of underrepresented minority groups and faculty from a variety of disciplines. With the University’s race-conscious admissions policies being debated by the U.S. Supreme Court, diversity is a high priority for the University in all areas, especially administration.

“The proportions of starkly underrepresented groups in the academic institutions decline more or less as you move up the hierarchy,” House said.

Faculty members have expressed mixed feelings about the search. Economics Prof. Gary Solon said such searches take time and need to be done properly. He added that he feels the search committee has done a good job in outreach to the University community.

“I think there was a lot of canvassing about what do people care about,” Solon said. “They do have to do (the search) with due care.”

English Prof. Peter Bauland said he was indifferent to the search process, although he added that he was very happy with Interim Dean Terrence McDonald’s performance.

Neuman was the first LSA dean to come from outside the University since the 1960s. Solon said hiring an internal candidate has become a priority in this search due to the large amount of executive turnover at the University in the last two years. He added that commitment and a short learning curve are key attributes in a qualified candidate.

“With an internal candidate, you know what you’re getting,” he said, adding that the University nonetheless needs to conduct a nationwide search.

LSA is not the only school searching for a leader. In December, Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman decided he would become the president of Cornell University this summer. A search committee chaired by Law Prof. Kyle Logue is in the middle of a nationwide search, hoping to submit a list of finalists to Courant during the summer.

“Ideally we would like to have a dean who could start in the summer before the beginning of the school year,” Logue said, though he added that an interim dean might be needed if no one has been appointed when Lehman leaves July 1.

The committee has reached out to students, faculty and other law schools around the country for recommendations as well as qualities they would like to see in a new dean.

“We want someone with a high degree of integrity, someone of extraordinary accomplishment in the field of law,” Logue said. “You want someone who can speak to and work with a lot of different constituencies.”

The Supreme Court decision regarding the Law School’s admissions policies is expected to come down at the end of June. Logue said the new dean would have to be adept in reacting to that situation.

“The new dean will obviously have to be prepared to deal with whatever the Supreme Court brings down,” Logue said.

The University is also currently trying to fill two other positions. There are ongoing hunts for an executive vice president for medical affairs, vacated by Gil Omenn last August, and chief financial officer, which Robert Kasdin left last May. But University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said no developments have occurred recently in either of those searches.

Lazar Greenfield and Timothy Slottow fill those positions on an interim basis.

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