University debates desired qualities in next University president at CPUC open forum
Individuals had their first chance to share their thoughts on the next University president at a meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community Monday afternoon. The CPUC meeting was the first of four public forums that will take place this week.
While no potential replacements for outgoing University president Shirley Tilghman were proposed, University Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 received a round of applause when his name was mentioned in association with the open position.
Kathryn Hall ’80, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and of the search committee, opened the question-and-answer session with the audience by introducing the eight other search committee members that joined her: Trustees Laura Forese ’83, Brent Henry ’69 and James Yeh ’87, Deputy Dean of the College Clayton Marsh ’85, Wilson School student Chad Maisel GS, Jeff Morell ’13, Catherine Ettman ’13 and philosophy professor Gideon Rosen GS ’92. Each search committee member took notes on the proceedings, though only Forese, Henry and Hall actually spoke up and interacted with the audience.
After initial introductions, Hall posed three questions to the various students, professors, staff members, alumni and community members present. First, she said the committee wanted to know what people saw as the challenges and opportunities the University would face in the future. Second, she asked those present to elaborate on specific characteristics and attributes of a president that they believed the committee should take into account during the search process. Lastly, she gave the audience the chance to make specific recommendations to the committee.
“We’re really in listening mode. This is a chance for us to hear from you,” Hall said.
Many people were concerned with making sure that the eventual president will maintain and, in some cases, improve upon the level of diversity on campus.
Janet Neglia, the associate director of medical services at University Health Services, called the institution of the University’s no-loan financial aid system as “an incredible game changer” in terms of encouraging diversity. She said she hoped that the search committee would make sure the new president would keep its benefits in mind.
USG vice president Stephen Stolzenberg ’13, meanwhile, said that while more superficial forms of diversity were no doubt present on campus, he felt that there is a distinct lack of “diversity of thought,” which he hoped a potential president would strive to change.
Also evident in the comments and questions directed to the search committee was a tension between the sciences and the humanities. One professor argued that the social sciences and humanities needed more attention from a new president, while a second said that given the challenges facing the University in the 21st century, it was critical that the future president have an intricate understanding of the University’s role in technology, research and science.
Various campus stakeholders also spoke about specific issues that were important to them. Current USG president Bruce Easop ’13 and Ben Levenson ’13 both asked the search committee to take into account each presidential candidate's stance on mental health. An employee of the Office of Information Technology said the search committee ought to take into account each candidate's views of technological integration at the University. Alumnus Jim Robertson ’91 suggested that the next president should have a strong tie to the traditions of Princeton.
Some members of the audience asked about the actual process and methodology the search committee would use. Hall, however, did not give any specifics, beyond the fact that the committee would not use any external “headhunting” companies to aid in the search. She did say, however, that since there are other presidential searches going on at universities around the country, the search committee is using this as an opportunity to learn from other schools’ ideas and approaches.
“There’s a lot of interesting information out there ... that we are shamelessly gathering,” Hall said.
None of the audience members directly proposed an individual candidate for the job, though Eisgruber was mentioned twice throughout the question-and-answer session. The provost was present at the meeting as a representative of the Priorities Committee, which crafts the University’s budget and also presented at the meeting.
Many attendees, whether offering their recommendations or asking questions, thanked the committee members for the time and effort they have given to the search.
“You are our great hope,” one audience member said.