Ettman '13, Morell '13 to serve on Princeton presidential search committee
The 17-member committee will also include nine trustees and will be led by University Board of Trustees chair and presidential search committee chair Kathryn Hall ’80. The other trustees are John Diekman ’65, Laura Forese ’83, Joshua Grehan ’10 — who is a Young Alumni Trustee — board vice chair Brent Henry ’69, Randall Kennedy ’77, clerk of the board Robert Murley ’72, Nancy Peretsman ’76 and James Yeh ’87. Henry and Murley served on the committee that chose current University president, Shirley Tilghman.
Hall, Diekman, Murley, Peretsman and Yeh all come from the financial services industry. Forese and Henry work in health care while Kennedy teaches at Harvard Law School, and Grehan is studying at Oxford University in England as a Sachs Scholar. Of the 17 committee members, 13 are men. The chosen trustees were informed of their selection at last month’s meeting, the same meeting at which Tilghman announced her resignation, according to University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee ’69, who is staffing the committee.
Absent from the committee is former Brown University president Ruth Simmons, who was named to Princeton’s Board of Trustees this summer. Simmons is the only former Ivy League president on the board.
The nine trustees and two undergraduate students will be joined by four faculty members, one graduate student and one University staff member.
Sociology department chair Miguel Centeno, physics department chair Lyman Page, Council of the Humanities chair and philosophy professor Gideon Rosen GS ’92, and acting director of the Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education Howard Stone will all serve on the committee. Graduate Student Government president Chad Maisel GS, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy from the Wilson School, will serve as the graduate student representative on the committee.
The staff member representative will be Deputy Dean of the College Clayton Marsh ’85, who was named to his post in April 2011.
Tilghman said in an interview last month that she herself has no plans to play a role in the process of choosing her successor, though she did say she “would be very disappointed if the gender of the candidate is of interest to anyone.” Durkee responded to the gender split among the search committee by defending the committee as “broadly representative,” but he acknowledged it may not represent every possible group given its size.
Durkee explained that despite the fact that the members represent certain constituencies, they are not necessarily speaking for that group. Members of each of the five constituencies selected their committee representatives differently, though Hall was involved in many parts of the selection process, including the selection of the two undergraduates and one graduate student.
The USG recommended four undergraduate student representatives to Hall and Durkee from the 48 seniors who applied through an interview process. Hall then chose Ettman and Morell from those four. Durkee personally asked Maisel, the graduate student, to serve.
USG president Bruce Easop ’13 said Ettman and Morell were recommended because they both understand the long-term priorities of the president.
“We weren’t looking for someone who had a specific agenda or a specific topic they were looking for the president to address, but someone who was really interested in finding a president who wanted Princeton to be a leader in many fields for years to come,” Easop said.
Ettman, a Wilson School major involved with women’s leadership efforts on campus, previously served as USG vice president but was defeated in last year’s election for USG president by Easop.
Morell, on the other hand, has no ties to the USG. A chemical and biological engineer, Morell is a residential college adviser in Wilson College and led the International Relations Council. He is pursuing a certificate in the Wilson School.
Morell said he and Ettman would be working to engage students in the process. Holding open forums with students was an idea he had pitched to the USG during the application process.
Ettman explained that while she values student input, there are limits on the type of input that can be solicited in order to maintain confidentiality.
“We will definitely be getting student feedback in whatever way is appropriate,” Ettman said.
Selection processes for faculty, staff and trustees differed
Hall also worked with the officers of the Board of Trustees — a group that includes Henry and Murley, who were ultimately chosen — to select the nine-member Trustee delegation.
Peretsman, who has served on the Board for 21 years — although the search that chose Tilghman occurred during a break from her service — explained that once the board leadership offered her the position, it was a clear choice.
“I don’t think I spent more than a minute [before] saying, ‘Of course,’ ” Peretsman said. “I think it’s a great privilege.”
The staff and faculty had elections to determine their representatives. An ad hoc nominating committee recommended four staff members. The entire staff participated in the vote that elected Marsh.
The Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements, better known as the Committee of Three, nominated 16 professors, according to Durkee. Faculty then elected four of those 16 to the committee, with one each coming from the natural sciences, humanities, social sciences and engineering.
Rosen, the faculty representative from the humanities, said serving on the committee would be both an honor and a challenge because it would give him an opportunity to learn more about the University.
“I know what faculty appointments look like, but this is a decision of a very different kind,” Rosen said.
Page, another faculty representative, said he thought he was chosen because he has spent two decades on the faculty. He explained that because Tilghman and her predecessor Harold Shapiro GS ’64 were both “fantastic” but also “pretty different,” it was difficult for him to say what characteristics make for a good president.
Rosen explained that though he thought Tilghman had been “an extraordinary president,” he was also not able to say what specific qualities he would be looking for in candidates.
“If someone had been asked in advance to describe the kind of qualities they would have liked in a president, it’s not clear that they would have described Shirley Tilghman,” he said.
The committee’s process
Peretsman shared Rosen’s perspective. She explained that it is important to her that she not approach the process with any preconditions about qualities she will look for.
“Every time I’ve been part of one of these search processes, the most important thing is to check your thoughts and bias[es] at the door,” Peretsman, a managing director at Allen & Company in New York, said. “I think it’s essential to go into this with a very open mind, understanding that you have to trust that the process works.”
Peretsman and Rosen both said the campus community should have opportunities to voice the qualities it is looking for, though they explained that a completely open selection process — including a discussion of potential presidents — is impossible.
“I think that the reason to have the diversity of this search committee is to in fact hopefully capture different thoughts and inputs,” Peretsman said. “It’s totally inappropriate to have conversations about individuals, but it may be totally appropriate to have all kinds of dialogues about what people are thinking about vis-a-vis a category.”
“You can have an open process where you talk in very general [terms] about what would be good for Princeton and the state of the University,” Rosen said. “It is inevitable that a decent process will be a closed process when it comes to the discussion of a particular candidate.”
In the beginning stages of the process, University leaders have stressed the need for secrecy regarding the candidates under consideration. On the USG application to be a student representative, applicants were asked to describe an instance when they had handled a sensitive issue discreetly.
The search committee will not comment on individual candidates, Hall said.
“It’s not just being a control freak,” Hall said, explaining that confidentiality and absolute privacy are critical to the yearlong process. However, there will be opportunities for campus-wide discussions such as public forums, Hall said. Durkee said there will probably be a search committee website that solicits ideas and thoughts.
Durkee added that he did not expect the committee to release a short list of candidates, but it may release a list of qualities the committee is looking for in a president, just as Yale, which is also looking for a president, did through its search committee. The Princeton search committee will decide what specific details will be made publicly available this weekend.
Rosen explained that he expects the search committee to be a large time commitment despite the “relatively few” meetings. Ettman said the application indicated that she would need to spend a few hours a week on committee-related work, though she guessed the time commitment would increase as the selection neared.
Durkee, who called the time commitment “demanding,” said the committee meetings will tend to coincide with full board meetings.
The committee will meet once or twice a month between now and late March or early April, when it expects to make a recommendation to the full board. The logistics of coordinating the 17-member meeting was not a constraint on the selection process, Hall said, noting that trustees will come together from all across the globe.
The search committee will meet for the first time on Saturday.