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Provost search committee requests community input on Etchemendy’s successor


Stanford students, faculty and staff received an email Monday afternoon from the newly announced Provost search committee soliciting input on the search from the Stanford community. All tenured members of Stanford faculty are qualified for consideration for the position of the next Provost.

The 12-person search committee is comprised of nine faculty members from a variety of departments and one staff member from Stanford Law School, as well as a graduate student in microbiology and immunology, Alicja Cygan Ph.D. ’20, and an undergraduate student, Reynis Vazquez-Guzman ’17, who is majoring in computer science. The committee is seeking community input on a successor to Stanford University Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82, who has served alongside outgoing President John Hennessy for 16 years.

Provost Etchemendy has agreed to remain at Stanford for the upcoming year to oversee the transition with incoming President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. After next year, though, Provost Etchemendy will step down.

The search will be chaired by Richard Saller, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences and Kleinheinz Family Professor of European Studies. Saller emphasized that the committee’s job is not to choose a new Provost but to provide a list of candidates that Tessier-Lavigne will personally choose from. There is no set number of candidates that the committee will recommend.   

Saller called the Provost’s office a “very, very important job” with “huge influence on decision-making at the University.”

In its email, the search committee outlines the role of the Provost.

“As the chief academic and chief budgetary officer of the University, the Provost is responsible for administering the academic program, including both instruction and research, and for the coordination of the administrative and support functions of the University with its academic purposes,” the email states.

According to Saller, the search for a Provost is in some ways easier than the search for a President because the majority of candidates for Provost will be people within the University – professors with whom Saller and other community members are already familiar. While the Provost need not be a current faculty member, a candidate should at the least have prior experience at Stanford, Saller noted.

“The Provost really needs to know how Stanford works,” he said.

While Saller was not in charge of selecting committee members and could not speak extensively about how they were assembled, he said that there was “a real effort” to ensure a committee diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, discipline and position at the University.  

The letter from the search committee prompts the Stanford community to especially consider nominating faculty members from varied backgrounds and experiences.

“Please give special thought to identifying potential candidates who would bring diversity to Stanford’s leadership, especially women or those who are members of ethnic minority groups,” the email reads.

The search committee requests written responses to be sent via email to [email protected] before May 30. Nominations can also be faxed to (650) 723-3235 or sent by mail to Building 1, Mail Code 2070.

Asked whether some students’ criticism of Stanford’s selection of another white male as its next President has put pressure on the Provost search committee to seek out diverse candidates for Etchemendy’s successor, Saller said that diversity has always been a priority for him in his work at Stanford.

“I don’t want to suggest that we’re just caving to pressure, because we believe that [diversity] is an important feature, and I think that the new president does, too,” he said.

The committee hopes to finish most of their selection work before Commencement, just under two weeks after the May 30 submission deadline, although Saller said he does not know exactly how long the winnowing process will take. The committee has meetings planned for every week from now until the end of the school year.

“The new president has asked me to do this in a pretty expeditious way, so that he can think about the nominees and interview them in the coming months,” Saller said.

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Sophie Stuber is a senior from Aspen, Colorado, studying International Relations, French and Creative Writing. Sophie has written for the Daily since freshman year . This year, she spends a significant portion of her time working on her thesis, which is about designing an international legal framework to aid people forcibly displaced due to climate change. Aside from academics, Sophie loves reading, writing short stories, listening to NPR, and adventuring outside. Any of her friends will tell you that she loves to talk about the mountains, skiing, Atlantic articles, and Rebecca Solnit essays.