Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

New provost. Know the old one?

Published: January 28, 2011
Section: News

While the search committee for a new provost has already received many nominations for who should replace Marty Krauss, it is also faced with overcoming the obstacle of what members of the committee call widespread student apathy, or ignorance, as to what being provost actually entails.

“It’s very frustrating to me that students don’t know who the provost is,” student committee member Marla Merchut ’12 said.

While faculty member chair of the search committee Sacha Nelson (BIOL) insisted, “We are simply looking for the best person for the job,” the student member of the search committee acknowledged that Lawrence’s ideals were a result of practical reality.

“Too many people just don’t know who Provost Krauss is and what she’s done for this community,” she said.

Michaele Whelan, vice provost for academic affairs, is one person who does.

The provost’s job involves “troubleshooting and synthesis between the many university departments,” she said.

Indeed, the provost must review new potential master’s degrees and act as liaison to the board of trustees; work with the faculty senate and every other tenured or hired member; merge the various and at times competing interests of both graduate and undergraduate students; decide classes that will (or will not) be offered again by weighing factors such as over- or under-enrollment; and interpret each semester’s course evaluations and feeding them back through the entire system to monitor it all over again.

In the coming years, according to Whelan, Krauss’ successor will also make decisions even more explicitly affecting students, up to and including merging or reshuffling departments as seen in last year’s 2020 committee recommendations.

Last year, the provost personally made the “judgment call,” in Whelan’s terms, to allow the Anthropology department to continue internally accepting doctoral students.

Other departments were made into programs and told they could no longer tenure new faculty. Any departments similarly “saved” from committee recommendations would be made by the provost.

The provost’s sweeping powers, only expanded after the administrative structural committee report made the position the second after the president’s, are perhaps why Merchut believes the committee should be so determined to find a provost who students will know.

“We need to take the position out of the shadows, because you need to see what [a provost] is doing,” she said.

The provost search committee hopes to complete its work by April, and Lawrence plans to name a winning candidate shortly afterward.