Gender at center of discussion about Tilghman's appointments
For probably the next two decades the person President Tilghman introduced as the new admission dean late last month will shape the Princeton student body. But many Princetonians viewed the magnitude of the appointment through one lens: gender.
Janet Lavin Rapelye, now admission dean at Wellesley College, is the fourth woman Tighman has installed in a prominent position since beginning her tenure in June 2001. The first female dean of admissions, Rapelye follows Provost Amy Gutmann, the chief academic officer; Maria Klawe, engineering school dean; and Anne-Marie Slaughter '80, Wilson School dean.
Many members of the University community think Tilghman has made a special effort to hire women for top positions. According to a Daily Princetonian poll, 44 percent of students thought gender was a factor in the selection of the new admission dean, 32 percent didn't think so and 22 percent were undecided. The poll had a nine percent margin of error.
Tilghman staunchly denies that gender has been a factor and points out that she has appointed more men than women — in fact, six men and four women.
Several members of the search committee for a new admission dean — including faculty, trustees and the committee's chair, Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel — also said gender wasn't a factor. It's worth noting, too, however, that Tilghman selects the members of the committee. The committee reviews candidates, and then makes a suggestion to Tilghman, who presents her choice to the board of the trustees.
"[Rapelye] really was the standout candidate," Tilghman said in an interview. "I can only presume that there is essentially an unintended bias on the part of people who cannot believe that the best candidates for these jobs turned out to be women."
Still, the appointments of women to such high positions are noteworthy. Ivy League schools — and Princeton especially — have a male-dominated tradition; two eating clubs were taken to court for their male-only policies just more than a decade ago. Additionally, the provost and admission and Wilson School deans are the most public University officers after president.
"I am surprised that this pattern has developed in such a short period of time, whereby many of the senior administrative positions are being offered to women," said Jadwiga Sebrechts, the president of the Women's College Coalition, which represents 70 women's colleges in North America. "You will not find another Ivy institution that has that percentage of women in those positions. And certainly the dean of admission, that's another very senior, very visible position — very much in the public eye. Arguably, after the president, the most visible senior administrator very much associated with the University that the outside world sees, is the dean of admissions."
On the often rambunctious alumni email lists, the subject of many messages after the appointment was, "Breaking the Glass Ceiling," and at many dinner tables, the topic was gender.
One reason for this is that many correctly think more women than men occupy top posts that deal directly with students, such as Malkiel and the vice president for campus life, Janet Dickerson, and dean of undergraduate students, Kathleen Deignan.
But all three of these women were appointed by President Emeritus Harold Shapiro GS '64.
When Rapelye begins her new job, five men and seven women will serve as senior academic officers, not including the dean of the faculty, for whom a committee is now considering candidates. Among nonacademic University officers, there are eight men and three women.
There's the sticking point. For example, Tilghman appointed Charles Kalmbach '68, the vice president for administration, whose position is equal to that of provost. But few students have ever heard of him.
Men Tilghman also appointed include William Russell, graduate school dean; Stan Allen, architecture school dean; Thomas Breidenthal, religious life dean; Brian McDonald '83, vice president for development; and Peter McDonough, general counsel, who was already in the counsel's office.
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