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Presidential Search Committee members chosen despite a disgruntled faculty

Published: November 6, 2009
Section: Front Page

Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees Friday announced the members of the Presidential Search Committee, which consists of 13 members, eight of which are also members of the Board, two alumni and three members of the faculty.

The Committee will be charged with replacing the university’s current president Jehuda Reinharz, who surprised the university by announcing his intent to resign from his position as President on Sept. 24.

The Presidential Search Committee will be chaired by Trustee Meyer Koplow, a 1972 graduate of Brandeis and a managing partner at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in New York. Other Trustee members of the committee include Allen Alter, a 1971 graduate of Brandeis and the senior producer at CBS news; Jack Connors, the former chairman of Hill, Holliday, Connors Cosmopulos, Inc.; D. Ronald Daniel, the director of McKinsey & Company; Stephen B. Kay, the former chair of the Brandeis Board of Trustees and senior director at Goldman Sachs & Company; Myra Kraft, a 1964 graduate of Brandeis and a philanthropist; and Barbara Mandel, philanthropist. The Board has yet to chose the last member of the committee.

Alumni members of the committee include Michael Sandel, a 1975 graduate of Brandeis and a professor of Government at Harvard University and Thomas Friedman, a 1975 graduate of Brandeis and foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times.

Faculty members of the committee are Biochemistry professor Gregory Petsko, Leonard Saxe, director of Brandeis’ Center for Modern Jewish Studies, and Biology professor Gina Turrigiano.

At yesterday’s faculty meeting, some members of the faculty expressed anger that two out of three of the faculty representatives to the Committee are from the sciences, saying that the choices were not representative when distribution of Schools and expertise of the chosen professors were taken into account.

“The Board [of Trustees] picked a lot of scientists,” Sabine von Mering (GRALL), the chair of the Faculty Senate, said, “and you can read my opinion of that, to some extent, between the lines.”

She clarified that the Senate had advocated for a more broad, intellectually diverse delegation.

“We had come up with a ranked list of faculty members that would have allowed the trustees to be representative,” von Mering said. “It included people from all schools, which the Trustees did not use; the group is good, but is not as representative as it could have been.”

Von Mering also made it clear that the faculty had concerns about how much weight their voice would be given by the committee, which will largely be composed of Trustees.

“There are members on the Presidential Search Committee, but the ratio is two for every 10 [faculty members]; research has shown that optimal policy would be four for every 10,” she said.

While von Mering said she approved of Koplow’s appointment as chairman, she said “clearly, relations between the faculty and the Trustees are in urgent need of improvement,” and proposed methods include regular faculty lunches with Trustees, inviting Trustees to sit in on classes, and other attempts to improve the relationship between Trustees and members of the faculty.

The Faculty Senate met with Reinharz this week and discussed what qualifications he would look for in a successor. He joked that the new president would need a sense of humor, and to not take himself too seriously.

On a more serious note, he was quoted by von Mering as saying, “‘the new president will need to be a scholar,’” able to lead Brandeis through the future.

Saxe, who is on the Search Committee, said he hopes to find “a great leader for a great university,” but refused to comment further on what that would entail because the Search Committee has not yet met to discuss their charge.

The committee will be participating in a conference telephone call on Monday at 2 p.m. to discuss a set of criteria for choosing the next university president.

When he resigned, President Reinharz vowed to stay on as president until the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, and wrote that he would stay in office up until June of 2011 in order to afford the Board of Trustees adequate time to find a replacement.

Chair of Brandeis’ Board of Trustees Malcolm Sherman said he did not have a timeline for when the search committee should find a president, but that “we are on schedule for the process.”

“How long this takes is going to depend on the committee’s ability to find the right candidate and the ability of the committee to make that candidate want to come to Brandeis,” Sherman said.

There are no students on the Presidential Search Committee; however, there will be two advisory committees to the search committee—one comprised of students, the other of faculty—that will both help formulate the committee’s views of what qualities are important in a university president, and interview the final candidates once the Search Committee has narrowed down the applications.