Jacobsohn accepts UT-Austin offer

Mike Needham Editor-in-Chief

Gary Jacobsohn, professor of political science and current chair of the political science department, will be leaving Williams after the 2003-04 academic year to join the government department at the University of Texas-Austin. Jacobsohn, an expert in the field of comparative constitutionalism, has been asked by Texas to help develop their program in this field.

“They view it as a real growth field and happily they saw me as a person who is doing interesting work in that field,” Jacobsohn said. “I’ve been here a long time and I thought it was the right time to make a move and pursue different challenges at a very fine institution.”

“I’m sad for the College and sad for myself, but glad he found a more welcome opportunity,” said Michael MacDonald, professor of political science. “He’s a very accomplished – even eminent – scholar, an excellent teacher and has genuine moral stature in the community.”

Jacobsohn joined the Williams faculty in 1971. He has published five books, most recently dealing with constitutional law in India, and is currently doing work on Ireland’s constitutional system.

“One is very lucky to find a professor who demands the very best, yet knows how to extract it from his students,” David Riskin ’04 said. “Professor Jacobsohn is one of those individuals.”

Next fall, Jacobsohn will teach two courses at Williams – Constitutional Law and Comparative Constitutionalism – and he will be on sabbatical for the spring semester before starting at Texas in the fall of 2004.

Constitutional law has been an extremely popular course at Williams and, though the political science department has not yet discussed the implications of Jacobsohn’s departure, MacDonald said he imagines the department will seek permission from the dean of the faculty to conduct a nationwide search for a candidate in the field.

The decision to leave Williams was “bittersweet,” according to Jacobsohn, who said he saw the opportunity at Texas as substantially different from that at Williams.

“I, obviously, really love being here and my departure is not a negative decision at all. I know exactly what I’ll miss about the place, which is substantial,” he said. “The students I’ve been privileged to teach have been on the whole just great. I can’t imagine an undergraduate student body any more impressive and appealing than what I’ve been fortunate enough to have taught.”

In Austin, Jacobsohn said he will be teaching graduate school courses, as well as undergraduates in the University of Texas honors program. He cited the move to a larger institution as something that would be valuable for him as a researcher.

“It’s a major university that has a first-rate law school with which I will have some affiliation or at least contact,” he said. “Intellectually, I think it will be a stimulating environment for me, which I view as a positive development in terms of my own work.”

In terms of the University’s comparative constitutional law curriculam, Jacobsohn said he will be the “main figure” in the program and will have the opportunity to hire two people to work with him once he arrives. He said there is the expectation that Texas will become one of the leading institutions in the field.