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August 27, 2010


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Alfred Brophy

Thanks for this, Tim. Pretty interesting and surprising move to go from Northwestern dean to president of the New School, it seems to me. I've followed only at a distance the financial problems of the New School in recent years, but it seems pretty clear that President Van Zandt is moving from a very secure institution to a less stable one, albeit a higher position. I'm guessing that's the kind of challenge that he enjoys and if he can turn that situation around, he'll be recognized and praised for that. Still, I think it's not a move a lot of other successful law school deans would want to make. Any thoughts about this?

Howard Wasserman

He cited, in part, his (and his wife's) desire to return to NY as a partial motivating factor. And while Northwestern is a stable institution, he was doing some creative things--the type of things that may play well at a "less stable" institution.

Alfred Brophy

Makes a lot of sense, Howard. This is a move an entrepreneur would make and that fits with everything I've heard about Van Zandt. Sounds like it'll be a nice fit for everyone.

Matt Lister

I don't know that much about Van Zandt, but he _seems_ to be the second president in a row who doesn't have much interest in the New School's historical tradition of being a place that was highly left-leaning, tied to European social theory, heterodox economics, and the like in various ways, and in some ways quite an unusual and activist-oriented university. Bob Kerrey already seemed to end most of that, and it's hard to see Van Zandt, from what I know of him, not mostly ending what's left of the distinctive tradition. Maybe there was no future for that tradition anymore, but I'm sorry to see it go- if the new school becomes just another large urban university with no special nature, even if its books are better I can't help but think it will be a loss in some ways. But maybe others have a different idea of what his plans for the place will be.

Alfred Brophy

Matt--you put your finger on another reason why the move (from VanZandt's perspective) is odd. I'd be surprised if he has much interest in the New School's historic mission; though perhaps, like so much of the rest of the academy, they are likely focused on the bottom line at this point. And I'd be willing to put my financial future in his hands -- he sure seems like he knows what he's doing on that score.

By the way, as long as we're talking about new presidents at Manhattan schools -- what do people make of Dinesh D'Souza's appointment at King's College? That seems to have escaped comment.

Matt Lister

That's interesting about D'Souza. He's obviously not an academic, but that school, which I'd never heard of before, is an odd looking place, too. A huge percentage of their faculty have degrees in "Christian Apologetics", something that makes me wonder whether the disinterested search for knowledge is high on their list of priorities, especially given the other statements about the mission of the school. I suppose that his main role will be a fun-raiser among certain parts of the right, and he might well be successful at that.

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