Despite student advocacy against hiring externally, Princeton’s next Dean of the College may not be selected from Princeton’s existing faculty. Per a town hall event on Friday, Oct. 27, the open application will not give priority to Princeton employees, according to Brian Li ’24, a member of the search committee for Dean Jill Dolan's successor. Although the committee has maintained that there will be no bias towards applicants who have an affiliation with Princeton, trends for previous hiring of the Dean of the College show that those who work at Princeton have been favored in the process.
The town hall was hosted in Whig Hall by the search committee, composed of students and faculty, and was open to undergraduate students, though only eight attended as participants. The meeting aimed to solicit feedback from undergraduate students about the traits they’d like to see in the next dean.
It is a time of transition for administrations across the Ivy League. Harvard President Claudine Gay and Columbia President Minouche Shafik began their terms in 2023, and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Dartmouth President Sian Beilock began in 2022. Yale President Peter Salovey is stepping down from his position this upcoming year. Of the eight Ivy League schools, five will soon have presidents who have served for less than two years. This is not including the many other deans and upper-level administrators who are leaving their positions, resulting in trends across the Ivy League of significant administrative turnover.
Five of the six past Deans of the College previously worked at Princeton, with the only one not, Joan S. Girgus, being recruited in 1977 from City College of the City University of New York. The only one of the six to be an alumnus of Princeton was Neil L. Rudenstine ’56, though this can be explained by the fact that all four of the most recent deans have been women, who only recently gained the opportunity to access a Princeton education.
Of the 14 people historically hired for dean-level positions at Princeton, seven have previously worked at Princeton in some capacity while seven did not, supporting the committee’s statement that prior employment at Princeton will not impact a candidate’s likelihood of being hired. Of those who worked elsewhere, deans previously held positions at City College, Stanford University, New York University, University of Cambridge, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tufts University, and Yale University.
The members of the search committee present at the town hall included Claire Gmachl, the Head of Whitman College, Shinjo Sato, the Director of the Japanese Language Program, Christopher Tully, a professor of physics, Cole Crittenden, the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Lily Gittoes ’24, and Li.
The process for picking the next dean is well underway, with the application’s priority deadline having closed on Oct. 20, Gittoes told The Daily Princetonian.
Li told the ‘Prince’ that the job listing “was put on the public HR website,” confirming that the opening was not “a strictly internal posting.”
Maddie Feldman ’27 told the committee, “I think about the importance of promoting from within … I feel it’s important that [the next Dean] is at Princeton for several months under Dean Dolan,” so that they can acclimate themselves to the intricacies of the University.
The search committee will hold interviews for the position in the next few weeks. By the end of the semester, committee members will compile a “short list” of candidates that will be submitted to President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 for selection and approval by the Board of Trustees. The committee did not provide the number of candidates that would be on the short list.
“The intention is to have somebody for the ’24–’25 school year,” Li said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “Fall ’24 would be the Dean’s first term.”
“It’s a time of great transition for student life," he added.
Students attendees shared recollections of their experiences with current Dean of the College Jill Dolan, describing what they believed led to her successes as dean. The overwhelming majority of students present noted Dolan’s welcoming personality and persistent engagement with students.
Saurish Srivastava ’27 said, “[Dean Dolan’s] commencement speeches and her speaking skills are really, really good. I would want a Dean to have that [speaking skill] because it sets the tone for the college and what we want to be. A lot of students come out of her speeches motivated and, in general, happy with being at Princeton.”
Li added, “She responds to nearly every email she sees, regardless of if it’s immediately actionable by herself.” He said that such responsiveness leads to boosted morale amongst students.
Mohan Setty-Charity ’24 said, “My experience with Dean Dolan stemmed from a personal encounter with her taking the time to talk to me at a student event. She continued to stay in contact with me for over a year. For me, I felt like that sort of personal connection is not something to be taken for granted.”
Setty-Charity is a senior columnist in the Opinion section at the ‘Prince.’
Students also shared what they’d like to see accomplished by Dolan’s successor. D’Schon Simmons ’27, who serves on Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Class Council for the Class of 2027, said, “One thing that pops into my head is introducing new majors. There’s demand for different jobs as well as new majors, and the Ivy League is lacking in that regard because we’re so historical in our majors.” He mentioned including education, marketing, and journalism as majors, incorporating new minors, and adding to Princeton’s pre-professional tracks.
Simmons also added, “I would expect USG to work directly with the Dean. I think a student committee [with the Dean] would be nice. I’m sure there’s opportunities for this to happen.”
Students also raised points about planning schedules with potentially longer passing periods, how increasing class sizes will be physically accommodated by the University, and dedicated spaces for religion and social issues.
Li told the ‘Prince’ that the search committee is prioritizing student feedback in choosing the next dean. “Lily and I only represent two students in the University. We’ve been meeting with a lot of students [to gather their opinions].” He said that more events like this town hall will be held in the future so that students can share the traits they’re looking for in a Dean; that feedback will be collected and considered by the search committee.
Meghana Veldhuis is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.