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Cornell's 12th President

While the press conference is going on in Ithaca, here are some thoughts about the appointment of David J. Skorton as Cornell's 12th President...

The choice of Skorton is an obvious attempt to strengthen fundraising for the University's life-sciences initiative. Lehman's 'vision' wasn't reverberating with potential donors, and in Skorton the trustee's obviously hope that a doctor and research scientist will be able to better connect with the large wallets.

That the University again chose a white man to lead its students and faculty is disappointing and troubling. Many of Cornell's peer institutions have had a woman or minority president (Princeton, Brown, Penn) as of recent, and all have performed admirably on the job. One wonders if the Presidential Search Committee even took Cornell's commitment to diversity seriously when searching for Cornell's 12th President.

One cannot help but wonder how much attention the arts, humanities, and social sciences will get under Skorton's reign. These areas have traditionally not received the attention that they deserve from the University, and Skorton's appointment seems ripe for developing the life sciences and strengthening the bond between the Medical School and the Life Sciences in Ithaca... but little else.

As with all of the past presidents of Cornell, only time will tell if Skorton is the right man for the job. While Skorton has the experience of leading a large public research university under his belt - which is more than what Lehman had coming into the job - being the President of Cornell University may be one of the toughest jobs in all of academia. It requires a careful balance of public and private interests, appeasing the politicians in Albany, catering to a group of narrow-minded alumni, juggling the interests of 14 fiercely independent and self-interested colleges and schools, and respecting the interests of an activist minded student body... to not even mention being the intellectual leader of one of the most prestigious and important universities in the world.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 21, 2006 (#)

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