Faculty votes against Gazzaniga

by Mark Herman | 6/1/04 5:00am

In a contentious show of disapproval for Dean of the Faculty Michael Gazzaniga's leadership, 22 department chairs of about 40 in attendance at a closed Monday meeting reportedly voted for a resolution stating that Gazzaniga lacks the skills necessary to continue in his job.

Seven are said to have abstained from the vote, which government department chair Anne Sa'adah brought to the committee's attention. In a phone conversation with The Dartmouth, Sa'adah refused to comment on the matter.

Gazzaniga and administration officials, including College President James Wright, both ex officio members of the committee, did not return calls made by The Dartmouth.

Meanwhile, Gazzaniga's supporters are rallying to his side, circulating letters around the faculty and collecting signatures to be sent to Wright, the Board of Trustees and the Dartmouth community. Philosophy professors Julia Driver and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong initiated two such letters, according to sources close to The Dartmouth.

According to one report, the letter to Wright, which deems the vote "a truly divisive and underhanded ploy," has gained more than 60 signatures.

Some of Gazzaniga's backers have called for public disclosure of the reasons behind the vote, something they said Sa'adah has refused to do.

"If there are reasons, then they should be shared with the entire community, not some secret little deal shared with a cabal of whiny academics," music professor Jon Appleton said.

Gazzaniga's high-profile status as one of the most renowned scholars on the Dartmouth faculty led Appleton to fear the ramifications if he were asked to resign.

"He's a highly-respected professional, and he pursues that. He's the kind of leader Dartmouth needs. He has a vision of the future. He doesn't pander to whiny academics, so that's probably why they don't like him. And, it's too bad because he's a really good guy, and Dartmouth needs him," Appleton said.

Appleton continued to question the motivation and professionalism of those who brought the motion to the floor of the Committee of Chairs meeting.

"People who are active and professionally involved in their own work don't have time to sit and bitch about the dean," Appleton said.

Gazzaniga, a 1961 Dartmouth graduate, was appointed to serve as Dean of the Faculty in 2002, replacing fellow psychology professor Jamshed Bharucha, who left the position to become the provost of Tufts University. Gazzaniga is widely acknowledged to be the founder of the field of cognitive neuroscience and is the president of the Cognitive Neuroscience Institute and the American Psychological Society, as well as the founder of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society at Dartmouth.

Gazzaniga was also appointed by President Bush to serve on the national Council on Bioethics.