Thursday, October 29, 2009

Presidential search at Wheaton College

For those who are unaware, Wheaton College is in the midst of a presidential search. Duane Litfin, who has served in the position since 1993, is stepping down next summer. As I understand it he has been intending to retire for a little while now, and is doing so following the current capital campaign that's going on.

The selection committee has a website up that is worth visiting. I have not been able to attend any of the on-campus meetings about the selection process, so I don't know any more about it than is publicly available. The nomination/application period ends on November 1st, so they are about to cross a significant threshold in the process. The committee is soliciting input: you can email them at presidentialselection@wheaton.edu. They will take nominations, and will of course continue to receive advice and opinions even after the nomination process closes this weekend.

I bring this up because the last presidential election at Wheaton was a significant one in its implications for evangelical scholarship and the position of the evangelical professoriate. Without rehearsing too much here (though see here), Nathan Hatch (now president of Wake Forest) was the prominent candidate for the position of president, and was a favorite amongst the faculty. The selection committee at the time, however, chose to bring in Litfin instead, which caused some bit of objection from a number of corners. In the last few years we have also seen a fair amount of concern over hiring-and-firing from Litfin's administration, most prominently with Dr. Joshua Hochschild. (I might add... while at the PMR conference two weekends ago, I was chatting with a Villanova professor and it came up that I was from Wheaton. The immediate follow-up was the firing of Dr. Hochschild, and this became the topic of the remainder of our conversation.)

As the committee decides on Litfin's successor, then, it may be worth forwarding them your thoughts. Wheaton's public face and academic legacy deserves careful consideration, especially from those who are in some way connected to the institution. The obvious concern, of course, goes something like this: "Well, plenty of people voiced their opinion a decade and a half ago, and were apparently ignored by those charged with making a selection." It may very well be that a similar backroom decision will take place in 2010 with little regard for our wishes. While they at least claim to be interested in our opinions and ready to take them into account, however, I think it's still worthwhile to write the selection committee a letter. Perhaps even mention the previous support of Hatch that went unheeded. Mention the exodus of certain professors like Mark Noll, and the dismissal of others like Joshua Hochschild. All of this is pertinent to the decision of who will be our next administrative leader.

To close on a lighter note, I ran across this story of a previous presidential passing-of-the-torch in ReCollections, the blog of our archives.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Have I been out of it. Graduated from Wheaton in 1991, and had no clue all this has been going on since I left. Thanks for the update!

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