President Falk’s Jan. 14 e-mail ushered in 2011 with two crucial appointments. Effective July 1, professor of philosophy Will Dudley ’89 will take over as provost, while Peter Murphy, currently professor and chair of the English department, will begin work as dean of faculty. These appointments represent an important step in Falk’s tenure at the College; more than just telling us the kind of people Falk wants to surround himself with, they also help bring into focus his initially abstract senior administration realignment idea. In both senses, we are excited about where things are going.
Falk has made two fine selections in his new dean of faculty and provost, for Murphy and Dudley will both bring a wide variety of experience to their new roles. At a place like the College, where no portion of the community is a completely isolated entity, it is important that senior staff members have a larger understanding than of just what their job titles state. Murphy will bring his knowledge as former Dean of the College and English department chair, and Dudley will bring his experience as both alum and professor. These are the kind of well-rounded people who should be at the head of a liberal arts school; moreover, they represent the liberal arts in and of themselves.
While Falk is certainly deserving of congratulation, we also must extend our gratitude to several other important people. Outgoing Dean of Faculty Bill Wagner and Provost Bill Lenhart have led the College through both a transition to a new president and a time of great financial uncertainty; they deserve our immense thanks for their five years of service in their respective roles. Additionally, over the past seven months or so, the work of the individuals who comprise the Faculty Steering Committee has been key in assembling the College’s new leadership. They’ve worked long hours to find the right people for these positions, and their recommendations to Falk, as far as we can see, have been uniformly excellent.
While the senior administration realignment was met mostly with praise and enthusiasm, there were those who urged Falk to remember the College’s commitment to faculty governance. Now, however, it seems that Falk’s larger vision is becoming clearer. In narrowing the scope of responsibilities of a number of positions and employing a non-faculty professional as vice president for finance and administration to address financial technicalities, Falk has made new positions available to faculty who will bring a broader perspective to the table alongside technical expertise and know-how. The position of provost has historically been filled by economics or Div. III faculty; as a result of the realignment’s delegation of the financial nuances to a dedicated professional, the position of provost can and even should be held by a professor who has experience in a more qualitative field. The decision to appoint Dudley as provost was thus a natural one – as a philosopher, he will be able to look critically at what the College’s priorities are and how we should be using our resources. Rather than diminish faculty governance, it now truly seems that the realignment plan will strengthen it.
Murphy and Dudley’s appointments represent another exciting trend for the senior staff: the three most crucial faculty administrative positions – dean of the College, dean of faculty and provost – will now be filled by professors who perfectly represent the three academic divisions. Dean Bolton, as a professor of physics, represents Div. III; incoming Provost Dudley embodies Div. II as a professor of philosophy; and soon-to-be Dean of Faculty and current English Professor Murphy stands for Div. I. In the spirit of the liberal arts, Falk has created a senior staff that truly represents the varied interests of the whole campus community. Bolton, Murphy and Dudley will certainly find themselves consulting each other about a variety of issues, and we feel confident that they will make educated decisions that will be in the best interests of the whole College.
There’s still a good deal of work to do, however. Murphy’s and Dudley’s new positions are very different from the teaching roles they have been in, and so both would do well to spend the next few months learning from Wagner and Lenhart. The current dean of faculty and provost’s dedication to the values and traditions of the College cannot be denied; it is that same dedication that will transform Murphy, Dudley and Bolton’s administration into something we’ve never really seen at the College before.
Additionally, the call to maintain faculty governance at the College cannot be forgotten. Murphy and Dudley’s appointments certainly point in the right direction, but it will be up to them, Bolton, the new Vice President of Student Life Steve Klass and the as yet unnamed vice president on finance and administration to let the College know how Falk’s realignment plan is really going to work. The next couple months should be about learning the ropes, but they also need to be about constructing how in fact the plan will manifest itself. It’s an exciting time that needs to be taken advantage of if we are to get things right.