May 27, 2016

Provost Isaacs Is Out, Provost Diermeier Is In

President Robert J. Zimmer announced in a March 7 e-mail that Provost Eric D. Isaacs will leave his current role this summer and take on the new position of Executive Vice President for Research, Innovation, and National Laboratories. Isaacs’s new role will replace the position of Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories, which was held by Don Levy, who is stepping down at the end of the academic year.

“I am grateful that he is taking on this new challenge, which is an essential one for the University,” Zimmer said in an e-mail to staff and students. “His particular set of experiences make him singularly well positioned to lead this rapidly evolving set of activities.”

On April 1, the University announced that Dean of the Harris School of Public Policy Daniel Diermeier will succeed Isaacs as the provost starting July 1. Diermeier’s academic work has focused on formal political theory, political institutions, the interaction of politics and business, computational linguistics, public perception, and crisis management, Zimmer said.

“My job over the next three months is really to learn a lot, to talk a lot to faculty, to hear from the students,” Diermeier told The Maroon after his appointment. “I have the great fortune that we have a transition period here of three months, which allows me to familiarize myself with all the details of University policies and positioning and precedents and so forth in great detail, and my job over the next three months is really to learn as much as I can about that.”

Invoking his expressed interest in campus issues during the transition, representatives of the IIRON Student Network (ISN) invited Diermeier and other top administrators to a meeting with ISN in an April 14 Letter to the Editor. No administrators showed up.

“Annual or even quarterly appearances at College Council meetings are not enough to acquire a sufficient familiarity with the concerns and needs of this community,” ISN wrote. “To be clear, we are asking that Diermeier and Isaacs attend this meeting, but we are not just asking that the University divest from fossil fuels, expand and revitalize Student Disability Services, end its racist policing practices, and pay its workers a living wage. Those are demands.”

An ISN rally to “Democratize the University” was held weeks later in response to the no-shows. Diermeier has written a book about managing institutional reputations which has also attracted criticism from UChicago’s activist circles.

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