From the Editor

White House calling?

To the consternation of many people on campus, Bloomberg News revealed on December 3 that the president of the United States was thinking about hiring the president of Yale. Readers, you probably know the outcome, or can Google it: by mid-December, the White House was predicting that Obama might announce at year's end which of the three finalists he would choose as his next top economic adviser. But as I write, the campus and President Richard Levin '74PhD are in limbo.

It's an interesting suspended moment in the life of Yale. Any presidential departure is an upheaval for a university administration, but Levin is an unusual case. He has been president since 1993, longer than any other Ivy president. He has turned around Yale's union problems and the decay of its physical plant, repaired its relations with New Haven, refurbished its scientific credentials, and pushed it in new international directions. Levin has his detractors, but they're in the minority. The Corporation, Yale's governing board, apparently would love to retain him indefinitely.

And so, after the news broke, there was a degree of anxiety among some university departments. People who had had meetings postponed because of Levin's schedule wondered: could this be It? His staff crossed their fingers and hoped he would get the other White House job he's being considered for (chair of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board), because he could accept it without having to leave Yale. Roland Betts '68, Senior Fellow of Yale's board of trustees, was deep in contingency planning for a potential interim presidency and search for a permanent replacement. But he liked to say he was spending all his time organizing votes at the White House—in favor of the other candidates. "I call people and say, 'Get the other guy!'"

(Levin, who is infallibly discreet, kept mum about his own guesses, hopes, and plans. To us he gave no comment. To theYale Daily News, he said, "I love my job and I'm not looking to leave"—which, no matter how you parse it, doesn't provide any clues to his thoughts about the White House.)

But to know whether an event has truly threatened the campus's sense of well-being, you have to talk to students. Only the most earthshaking events at Woodbridge Hall make any impression on the student body. Were students worried by the possible departure of Yale's president? Reassuringly, no.

"I've actually been quite surprised by how little students have talked about it," an undergraduate e-mailed me. "There's certainly something to be said for the life-sucking presence of finals period (most people aren't talking to other people aboutanything at this point), but it may be that most students don't really see President Levin or feel his influence on their day-to-day lives."

"I talk to my friends," another undergraduate said, "and they say, 'Not only do I not know. I don't care.'"

And a graduate student told me, "Some people are aware, some people are not. Yesterday's lunch conversation was almost exclusively about mail-order Russian brides. Today's discussions thus far have been mostly about car troubles and actual schoolwork."

Car troubles and schoolwork: life carries on. Betts thinks so, too. If Levin leaves, he says, "we'll miss him enormously. He's great. But Yale will be just fine."


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