Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2000
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Casteen discusses College, role of new A&S dean

By Rebecca Arrington

John T. Casteen III
John T. Casteen III

The condition of the College of Arts & Sciences is "excellent," but it's also U.Va.'s current "need center" for fund-raising, President John T. Casteen III told Arts & Sciences faculty members at a Sept. 20 meeting he called to discuss issues related to the search for a new Arts & Sciences dean.

At the well-attended meeting, which more than half-filled McLeod Hall Auditorium, Casteen told the faculty that a search committee of eight to 12 members would be named within the next two weeks, and that it would be made up of faculty, students and possibly a Board of Visitors member. Vice President and Provost Peter W. Low said he hopes to have the new dean in place by July, when historian Melvyn Leffler steps down as dean to prepare for a visiting professorship at Oxford.

The current state of Arts & Sciences is " the best I've ever seen it," Casteen said. "I think the way Mel approached his role as dean was the right one."

The new dean must emerge as a consensus-builder, stressed Casteen, who urged the faculty to "seek peace with other entities within the University." The new dean should possess the ability not only to lead U.Va.'s largest unit, but to raise private funds, and to stay apprised of legislation that could effect the University, specifically the College, said Casteen. He mentioned a current bill that has sped its way through the legislative process, which if passed, would mandate that all students take an American history course before graduating from a public college or university in Virginia. Such a law would have major implications for the College, Casteen said. The University currently doesn't need to offer numerous sections of this course because most students enter already having met U.Va.'s requirement through advanced placement courses they took in high school.

Responding to a question asked by history chair Michael Holt about possibly restructuring the organization of the College, an idea mentioned at a Sept. 8 Faculty Senate meeting, Casteen said, "There will be a search for a dean of the College as it is organized now." By far the largest U.Va. school, Arts & Sciences currently includes some 25 academic departments, 23 research centers and 16 interdisciplinary programs.

Casteen said he hadn't discussed "the notion that the College be split" with any faculty members in arts or sciences. "I grew up in the College. It's my origin. I understand it. It's what I like, but I also understand that things change," and should be re-evaluated periodically, whether or not change is determined necessary, he said. "If you as a faculty care about such issues, then I suggest you study other models to understand what might be best for the College."

Casteen asked the faculty to exercise discretion while the search is under way, noting that the last dean's search had been plagued with premature disclosures about candidates.

He also noted that the Board of Visitors wants to develop a "cultivation system" where young faculty are groomed to "step into my job and other leadership roles at U.Va."

"Being a dean or other University leader is a life- and time-consuming job, one that may need addressing to prevent driving potential candidates away," said Low, who is himself stepping down as provost to return to full-time teaching next year, once his replacement is hired.

Casteen and Low invited faculty members to write or call them with concerns or suggestions. Casteen also said he would hold future meetings to discuss the progress of the search, as well as other items of concern to the Arts & Sciences faculty.


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