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How to Think About Elizabeth Smith?

Elizabeth Smith1.jpgAfter making the rounds of several faculty members, the consensus seems to be that Elizabeth Smith (not “Liz,” please) is the real deal. While not everyone is convinced that she won’t be kissing up to Parkhurst (though other professors pointedly note her spirited independence), and in my cynical moments I wonder if Phil Hanlon is capable of making a good appointment (think fruit of the poisonous tree and all that), my contacts seem to admire her tough-mindedness, seriousness and thoughtfulness. As one faculty member in a position to know said, she will fight for the Arts & Sciences.

The Biology department is one of the College’s best, and Smith’s scholarly record, while far from extraordinary, seems to show accomplishment — though don’t look to me to understand her most cited paper: The radial spokes and central apparatus: Mechano-chemical transducers that regulate flagellar motility (187 citations in the works of other researchers). Check out her lab’s website.

As well, Smith has a background and interests in dance and the arts, which might translate into good relations with the Humanities faculty — many of whose members are skeptical of science faculty members’ respect for their division.

Most importantly, Smith will be filling a role in which she will receive little guidance. Phil is puttering about doing whatever it is that he does (though the somnolence of the capital campaign makes one wonder), and Provost Dever is interviewing furiously at other schools, so we can expect that Dever’s engagement in the life of the College will be only sporadic until some other institution of higher learning makes the same mistake that we did. The door is open for Smith to innovate — and maybe do a little cost reduction, too, among the 309 non-faculty staffers in the Dean of the A&S Faculty area (who are those people?).

So let’s welcome Elizabeth Smith with mild hopefulness. We might call her the Duthu Dividend.

Addendum: Read the College’s press release here, the Valley News article on Smith’s appointment here.

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