CAS dean search sees scant student involvement

As the College of Arts and Science continues to seek a new dean, the search committee is encouraging students from the CAS community to participate in the nomination process.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Silver Center for Arts and Science, located on 32 Waverly Place, is home to NYU’s College of Arts & Science. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Maria Freyre, Staff Writer

NYU’s College of Arts and Science is searching for a new dean following the resignation of dean Gene Jarrett in August. The Dean Search Committee, composed of members of the Faculty of Arts and Science, is led by neuroscience department chair André Fenton. 

Meghan Ashbrock and Jackie Zavitz of Heidrick & Struggles, an international executive search firm, have also been asked to join the committee. The firm has been involved in successful dean searches at institutions like Yale University, Emory University and Carnegie Mellon University. Although Heidrick & Struggles is participating in the search process, the final selection will remain the decision of the NYU team.

“They inform nominees of the requirements and the application process,” Fenton said of Ashbrock and Zavitz. “They help coordinate the efforts and communications of the committee as well as consult us on best practices.”

No students have come, so we really want to hear from you, from the student body.”

— Megan Ashbrock, Heidrick & Struggles

The search committee aims to include the student body in the decision process, which began in September, by hosting listening sessions so that students can share their expectations for the selected dean. Two student listening sessions have been conducted already; both had low turnouts.

“This is the second time that we’ve held a listening session and no one has come,” Ashbrock said. “No students have come, so we really want to hear from you, from the student body. And so we will do this again, and my guess is that we will do this several times.” 

CAS is one of three NYU schools under the Faculty of Arts and Science, the other two being the Graduate School of Arts and Science and Liberal Studies. All four institutions — CAS, FAS, GSAS and LS — have their own leadership teams, but the CAS dean is particularly important because they preside over the most students and faculty.

“CAS is a tremendous source of pride and inspiration for the entire Arts & Science community,” FAS dean Antonio Merlo wrote to WSN. “Choosing the right person to serve as CAS Dean is critical, and we have engaged all members of our community in the process.” 

Jarrett, the former dean, came to NYU from Boston University. This time, however, the search committee decided to conduct an internal search. Candidates must be tenured full FAS professors to be considered for the position.

“By searching for academically senior faculty that are already established in FAS, we expect we can derisk the possibility of recruiting someone who is not devoted to NYU CAS students and NYU FAS concerns,” Fenton said. He added that an internal search would “ensure the candidates are first-rate scholars that have the respect of their faculty peers.”

The committee had an open nomination process, ending on Oct. 31, where CAS students were able to email their recommendations for the deanship to the committee. The official nomination process is over, but students are still welcome to send the committee suggestions or concerns. 

According to Ashbrock, open nominations are a standard procedure in higher education administrative candidate searches.

The search committee — with help from Ashbrock and Zavitz — is reaching out to the nominees to see if they are interested in applying for the position. A consulting team will help candidates with their applications before they are sent to Merlo for review.

The committee — which was established in 2017 by President Andrew Hamilton and Provost Katherine Fleming — consists of 12 members, 11 of whom are from the FAS. Student government chairperson Mehrin Ali is the only student on the committee. 

“Because a primary focus of the CAS Dean’s role is student success, understanding the views of our current CAS students is essential,” Dean Merlo wrote. “A CAS student holds a seat on the search committee, and broad student engagement is being sought in a variety of ways.”

Ron Hall, the senator representing CAS in the Student Senators Council, said that the school’s student government understands the importance of involving students in the search process and will support the committee by informing students about the search and promoting the student listening sessions.

“Leadership within the Dean’s office can have a drastic impact on the student experience within the College,” he said. “The Council urges students, if their schedule permits, to attend the listening session and provide suggestions, nominations or traits that they would like to see in the College’s next Dean.”

CAS students can expect email invitations from the CAS student council once the time and date for the third listening session have been determined. Hall added that the council is contacting student organizations in CAS to promote the sessions. 

The search committee hopes to have made a selection by fall 2022. In the meantime, Matthew Santirocco, a former CAS dean, has returned from retirement to serve as interim dean.

Contact Maria Freyre at [email protected]