Folt’s experience will ease transition to interim presidency
By Amanda Young And Ester Khachatryan, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Saturday, June 9, 2012
College Provost Carol Folt will experience a relatively smooth transition to the position of interim College president due to her experience as an administrator at the College but faces challenges in familiarizing herself with current initiatives and overcoming a negative public image, according to students and faculty interviewed by The Dartmouth. Folt will begin her tenure on July 1 after College President Jim Yong Kim’s departure on June 30 to the World Bank.
Folt, who is Dartmouth’s chief academic officer and the second-highest ranking College official, has served as Provost since 2009 and will continue initiatives to improve “Dartmouth’s standing and excellence as a leader in higher education,” Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel ’78 said in a press release.
Many professors said that Folt’s experience serving as an administrator of the College and directing the strategic planning process has prepared her for a relatively seamless transition to interim president.
“She’s in many ways has been at Kim’s right or left-hand side,” biology professor Lee Witters said. “There’s not a lot of start-up time needing to grasp what are all the things that the President’s Office could be doing.”
Religion professor Nancy Frankenberry said that Folt will benefit from the support of the faculty and her strong relationship with Dean of the Faculty Michael Mastanduno.
“The most important aspect of the presidency as far as I’m concerned is to advance the teaching and the scholarship of the faculty of arts and sciences,” she said.
Psychology professor Todd Heatherton said that the interim president’s role is to facilitate ongoing initiatives rather than start new ones.
“Having someone who really knows how Dartmouth currently operates is good for an interim position,” he said. “You want to keep whatever progress we’re making on track.”
Most students interviewed by The Dartmouth said they were not very familiar with Folt’s accomplishments as provost or with what her position as interim president will entail.
Students familiar with Folt’s accomplishments as provost and dean of the faculty expressed mixed opinions on her appointment and future effectiveness.
Travis Blalock ’12 said he is neither surprised nor enthusiastic about Folt’s appointment as interim president. Blalock said Folt has proven to be more concerned with the perception of the College than with its substance.
“I don’t think that the expectations are very high for her so I don’t think people will be disappointed as they were with President Kim,” Blalock said. “I don’t imagine her launching a big initiative or doing that much at all.”
Aaron Cappelli ’12 said he supports Folt’s appointment since she is unlikely to institute radical proposals before the next president takes office.
“She is a good option and her role in the College is significant,” Cappelli said. “It makes sense to replace a high manager with a high manager.”
Vice chair of the Student Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault Anneliese Sendax ’13 said Folt’s experience teaching at Dartmouth gives her an understanding of the student body and its needs.
“While it is important for the student body to know who she is and what matters to her, it is more important that Provost Folt is ready to take on the immense task of running a college,” Sendax said.
Folt’s involvement in the College’s strategic planning process will help her continue Kim’s initiatives, according to engineering professor Tillman Gerngross.
“I think she’s the ideal choice to take that momentum forward and continue that work for the next year or year and a half,” he said.
Witters said he hopes Folt pushes the College in new directions on student issues like sexual assault, hazing, incidents of homophobia and advising.
“She has a rare opportunity to be therefore bold because she doesn’t have any internal start-up time to acclimatize herself to that position,” he said.
Some faculty members commended Folt’s choice to remove herself from considerations for the permanent presidency.
A professor who wished to remain anonymous due to his position at the College said that the faculty would be “reluctant” to accept Folt as a permanent president of the College due to her top-down administrative style.
“You can’t be an effective university administrator in a place like Dartmouth and be a micro-manager,” he said.
If Folt had remained a candidate for president, she would have scared off potential applicants who would view the selection process as an ‘inside job,’” according to another professor who wished to remain anonymous.
“By taking her name out of consideration, she is helping to expand the potential universe of qualified candidates,” the professor said.
Folt began teaching at the College in 1983 as a biology professor and has since served as dean of graduate studies, dean of faculty and provost.
Folt led reforms to enhance teaching and learning, and created the position of associate dean of the faculty for arts and sciences to encourage interdisciplinary study at the College.
Folt’s tenure as dean of faculty was marked by controversy when several prominent faculty members resigned, including former music professor Jon Appleton, who said that Folt was “ineffective” and cited her dishonesty as a factor in his resignation after a 38-year teaching career.
Speech professor Jim Kuypers resigned in 2005 after his requests to add more faculty members to the Office of Speech and maintain the department’s independence were not satisfied.
In 2010, Folt worked with Kim on the College’s strategic planning process to support faculty, strengthen the curriculum and improve student education in light of budget cuts and administrative restructuring.