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And the Beat Goes On….

A collective groan went up across the campus last month when Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim announced that Provost Barry Scherr will be staying on for another two years. A charter members of the Hanover Olde Guard that filled the senior ranks of the outgoing administration (propriety restrains me from referring to this past-their-prime bunch as the Wright Guard), Scherr has been in Hanover for 34 years, only slightly less than his previous boss (Wright was here for 41 years).

Rounding out that graying crew were Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt (26 years); outgoing Athletics Director Josie Harper (27 years); acting AD Bob Ceplikas (30 years); Director of Admissions Maria Laskaris (22 years); and Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity Holly Sateia (35 years).

Now don’t get me wrong, Scherr is a perfectly nice guy: quiet, respectful, and prudent to a fault. It’s just that, like the other senior people in the administration, he has been at Dartmouth forever, and he has spent almost no time at other institutions. As a result, any fresh energy and ideas that he might have once had have long been spent. His eight years to date as Provost have been, charitably speaking, uneventful.

The groan that greeted Scherr’s re-appointment stems from the conclusions to be drawn therefrom about President Kim’s nose for talent - or lack thereof. If Jim Kim could not immediately conclude that Scherr is not the Provost that he needs, and then set about finding a muscular academic leader for the College, someone with broad experience and a track record of innovation and achievement, then I have to wonder where Dartmouth is headed under her new President.

Of course, some of you will make the usual noises about the need for continuity and institutional memory, but that is just smoke. Really good people get up to speed quickly - that’s one of the reasons that they are really good - and besides, Scherr was not going anywhere else soon, so he could stay around to help out. And even if Kim felt a real need for continued support, why give Scherr a two-year re-appointment and signal continuity with the last stagnant decade? Kim should have started a search on July 1 and personally worked hard to attract a forceful administrator.

All in all, Jim Yong Kim’s first major decision as President has not been a heartening one.


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