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[Editorial] Ivy League Univ. President

Posted March. 04, 2009 07:43,   


What qualifications should a university president have? After a survey of more than 200 university presidents, the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education named three qualities: leadership, human relations skills and an understanding of their school traditions and culture. Outstanding academic achievements or excellent character were not included. Institutions of higher education in the United States and Britain tend to prefer as presidents young administrators and business managers capable of raising funds and leave school management to great scholars.

Even so, those who can serve as symbols of scholarly achievement, morality and authority are preferred. Ivy League universities have such high expectations for their presidents. At Harvard, former president Neil L. Rudenstine came under fire for his indifference to major national issues though he raised an enormous amount of funds. Lawrence Summers, another former Harvard president, had a hard time because of sexist comments he made about a female student. Harvard elected Drew Gilpin Faust, a female historian, as Summers` successor.

Korean American Jim Yong Kim has been elected president of Dartmouth College. Of the eight Ivy League schools, four have women presidents. Kim is the first Ivy League university president of Asian descent. He has overcome the thick entry barrier to the American mainstream with his academic expertise and leadership in social medicine at the World Health Organization and in South America.

Dartmouth is the smallest Ivy League school. Just 13 percent of its students are of Asian descent. Its education is centered on college, however, as shown by its adherence to “college” in its name rather than university. It also takes great pride in liberal education. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a Dartmouth graduate. Kim was also named one of Time magazine`s 100 most influential people in 2006, described as someone who makes people believe the world can change. In an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo, Kim said his mother, who studied the philosophy of 16th-century Korean Confucian scholar Yi Hwang, always told him to work for social justice.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)