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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Positions adjust for sabbatical

As College President James Freedman heads to Cambridge, Mass. for his six-month sabbatical beginning Jan. 1, a game of administrative musical chairs will place Dean of Faculty James Wright in the President's Office and Chemistry Professor Karen Wetterhahn in the Dean of Faculty Office.

But as acting president, Wright said he plans to stay the course chartered by Freedman and not make any major policy decisions without consulting Freedman.

"If everyone could say at the end of June that the institution operated during the president's sabbatical as though he were still here -- then I would be very pleased and think that I had accomplished all that I had hoped to accomplish," Wright said.

The College's Board of Trustees announced last winter that it had asked Freedman to take a sabbatical. The decision was made before the president was diagnosed with cancer.

The Trustees decided to wait until Jan. 1, 1995 to allow additional progress in the Will to Excel Capital Campaign and to allow Provost Lee Bollinger to adjust to his new position.

Although Wright will move his office trinkets -- photographs of his family, gizmos and gadgets and U.S. presidential campaign political buttons -- across the Green, he said he will suffer the nervousness of being not at home.

"One is always nervous when you take on new responsibilities and wonder how many new ways you can discover to foul up," Wright joked. "I don't look upon this as something that's free of apprehension, I won't go over there with the sense that this is easy."

Despite the anxiety, Wright, a history professor, said he feels as prepared as he is going to be.

"I'm engaging more over the last few weeks on some of the issues of the presidency -- what's on my mind is making certain that we affect this smoothly," Wright said.

Wright said his schedule is already currently filled with a great deal of appointments, meetings and traveling.

A new job

He said one of the main differences between the acting president's position and his current one are the symbolic duties he will perform as the College's top administrator.

Wright said that although he does not intend to bother Freedman unnecessarily during what he called the president's "richly deserved" sabbatical, he will consult Freedman if he is called upon to make a decision that will have lasting effects on the College.

But Wright said he and Freedman regularly consult each other on policy matters. "There's not been a single matter of policy or of philosophy which Jim Freedman and I have disagreed in the last five years. We share some of the same values, we have the same aspirations," he said.

In keeping with Freedman's philosophy, Wright said he will hold office hours each week.

In a letter released Monday, Freedman expressed his confidence in Wright's ability to handle the affairs as acting College president.

"I am confident that, when I return to Parkhurst Hall next summer, I will find the College in better shape than ever," Freedman wrote.

During the next six months, Freedman will have an office at Harvard Law School.

In the letter, which announced the end of his chemotherapy treatment, Freedman said he would do some reading and writing and take advantage of the opportunity to interact with a law faculty.

Freedman is currently working on a book called "Idealism and Liberal Arts Education" that will address his concern about the replacement of liberal arts schools by vocational ones.

This will be Freedman's first extended period away from work since 1976-77, when he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

College Spokesman Alex Huppe said Freedman is "absolutely looking forward to" the sabbatical.

But Freedman said the idea of a temporary leave was not his. The Board of Trustees had presented the idea to him, citing it as a common practice among other prestigious colleges and universities.

Wetterhahn moves up

While Wright moves into Parkhurst Administration building, Wetterhahn, who finished her tenure as associate dean of the sciences last June, will become the College's first woman dean of faculty.

"I feel prepared -- the current College administration has done a great job. Things have gone smoothly and they'll continue to go smoothly," she said.

She said her schedule will not require a drastic amount of extra time because she had kept very busy in the job as associate dean.

Wetterhahn, like Wright, said her new role will be to continue the present administration's course of making sure the faculty is well-served.

"Jim Wright and I will continue to work hard in [Freedman's absence]," Wetterhahn said.

When Freedman returns in the summer, Wright and Wetterhahn will go back to their current positions.

In two years, Wright will finish his term as dean of the faculty and will have served the College for 12 years in administrative posts.

Wright said he has not seriously entertained thoughts of one day becoming president of the College.

"It's my intention and my expectation to go back to the history department and teach at that time. I have no aspirations to be president of Dartmouth. I think it's a remarkable job, but I'm not looking for anything further in administrative service," Wright added.

"I am certainly a two-term dean. I will go back to teaching history in 1997," Wright said.