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Emily Bakemeier ‘82 Trustee?

The Trustees have announced a number of changes to their ranks. Peter Robinson ‘79, the last of the petition trustee candidates, has left the Board after two terms. So ends the failed alumni revolution that began when T.J. Rodgers ‘70 was elected to the Board in 2004. By anyone’s reckoning, the counter-revolution has left the College in worse shape than prior to the initial uprising. Today we are burdended with an insular, MBA-filled Board; a two-thirds majority of Charter Trustees, rather than alumni directly electing half the Board; and single-candidate Alumni Trustee elections, wherein the one candidate is picked by a small committee of Alumni Councillors.

Also leaving the Board after only two years is Marye Ann Fox ‘74AS (she was not an undergraduate at the College), formerly Chancellor of the University of California San Diego, among other senior posts in the academy. She was the Board’s only member with meaningful teaching and administrative experience in an undergraduate institution of higher learning.

The Board did name one new Charter Trustee: Emily Bakemeier ‘82. I’ll give Phil Hanlon a bye on this one, but it is unseemly that Bakemeier served on the College’s most recent Presidential Search Committee, and now she has been chosen for the Board. That was Jim Kim’s and Carol Folt’s modus operandi; I hope that we are finally done with it.

When Bakemeier was chosen for the Presidential Search Committee, I wrote the following:

Even more perplexing is the choice of Yale Associate Provost Emily Bakemeier ‘82, especially because there was no from-outside-of-the-College representative of the academy on the committee that chose Jim Kim.

Bakemeier, a former Dartmouth soccer player, is one of Yale’s eleven [now eight] Deputy/Associate Provosts. Her scholarly record is slight — she received her PhD from Princeton almost twenty years after graduating from the College — and her visibility in the Yale administration has been minimal. Why is she on the Search Committee?

But my concern with the choice of Bakemeier has less to do with her individual characteristics per se than with her background as it compares to other alumni in senior administrative positions outside the College. Was there no place on the Search Committee for Bill Kirby ‘72, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard; Philip Hanlon ‘77, Provost of the University of Michigan; Etta Pisano ‘79, Dean of the College of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina; Mike Gazzaniga ‘61, Director of the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at UC Santa Barbara; or any number of other distinguished alumni in positions of the highest responsibility in the academy.

Bakemeier ComboB.jpg

That statement still stands — except for the part about Phil Hanlon, of course. The Board needs real expertise in higher education. The multiple scandals of the past few years can ultimately be laid at the door of the stock market speculators, investors and business executives who make up the Board, none of whom spend enough time in Hanover to really understand what ails the College, and none of whom (now that Marye Ann Fox has left) have any serious experience in the world of undergraduate education. That makes no sense.

Or actually it does. Senior academics, leaders like the people on the list above, speak with real authority about higher education. Their presence would surely discombobulate the comfortable Olde MBA Boys on the Board. After all, shared mediocrity is so much easier than a real diversity of opinion.

Addendum: For an example of a Board comprised of people who can bring real expertise to bear, one need look no further than DHMC’s Board. Heavy hitters all.

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