In order to facilitate a smooth transition to the next president’s administration, President Schapiro has asked two of the three members of the College’s senior staff, Dean of the Faculty Bill Wagner and Provost Bill Lenhart, to remain in their positions for an extra year. The positions would normally terminate on June 30.
In general, faculty members hold the three senior staff positions for three years. Once his or her first term ends, the president decides whether or not to appoint the staffer for a second term, and the decision is approved by the Board of Trustees. “Two terms is usually the limit – non-permanence is one of the principles of faculty governance at Williams,” Lenhart said. Williams is fairly unique in that after serving on senior staff, faculty members return to teaching. “It’s not standard, but it has worked remarkably well here,” Lenhart said.
Since Schapiro will be leaving at the end of this year, the process will work slightly differently. Dean Karen Merrill is still in the midst of her first term, and will be unaffected. Wagner and Lenhart, however, are approaching the end of their terms. “The situation is unusual this year due to the presidential transition – it seems inappropriate to lock the senior staff in for three more years,” Lenhart said. Wagner agrees: “The new president may have his or her own preferences in terms of senior staff,” he said.
Schapiro said, “Whether or not either of them will complete another three-year term will depend on whether they would prefer to return to the faculty after the presidential transition, as well as on the preferences of the next president.”
Both Wagner and Lenhart agreed that staying in their positions for one additional year will encourage continuity through the College’s transitional period. “Having people familiar with current and ongoing discussions, issues, policy initiatives and challenges makes a lot of sense,” Wagner said. With Wagner, Lenhart and Merrill all staying, the new (or if need be, interim) president will have an established senior staff to aid him or her in joining the Williams community.
None of the senior staff members are on the Presidential Search Committee. “It would be like us choosing our own boss,” Wagner said. Still, they have some hopes for the new president. “In the last several years, the College has experienced changes in significant ways, including the structure of the student body, faculty and curriculum,” Wagner said. He hopes that the next president will continue to integrate the positive changes into the College, and ensure that things like the expanded tutorial system and enhanced campus-wide diversity do not regress.
Lenhart lauded the construction projects completed under Schapiro’s leadership as some of the College’s best recent achievements. “The curricular innovations, especially enhancing the tutorial program and inter-disciplinary offerings, along with continued efforts to make a Williams education more affordable, have been major successes,” he added.
Both Lenhart and Wagner cited a sense of responsibility to the College as a reason for choosing to continue in their positions. “Among my main motivations for continuing on is that this is a challenging time for the College – we’re looking at decisions we don’t usually have to make,” Lenhart said. He emphasized the need for the community to come together to choose certain programs to strengthen. “We need to keep doing what we do but make sure we do so in fiscally responsible ways,” Wagner said.
Schapiro said, “As for my hopes for president number 17, they are pretty simple: may he or she come to love Williams as much as I do.”