Krislov Officially Appointed
The Presidential Search Committee announced May 4 that it had selected its final candidate for the Oberlin presidency. Marvin Krislov, currently the vice-president and General Counsel at the University of Michigan, met with the Board of Trustees on campus. His visit coincided with a school-wide mass mailing announcing the choice.
Although the Board of Trustees normally meets only four times a year, the Executive Committee approved Krislov’s campus visit as well as a special telephone session to appoint Krislov president depending on the results of the visit.
“This gave us the flexibility to appoint Mr. Krislov as the president if the public phase went well,” said head of the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee Robert Lemle. “We felt it was better to act while Oberlin was still in session, and that we would get better press coverage as well.”
Krislov led the University of Michigan’s legal defense of its affirmative action admissions policies at the Supreme Court, which voted in 2003 to uphold the constitutionality of taking diversity considerations into account in college admissions.
When asked why he sought the position at Oberlin, Krislov said, “Oberlin is one of the great institutions of higher education, one that I hold in high regard. I love the business of higher education, and I think that Oberlin does a wonderful job. I’m a big fan of the arts; I love this intermix of the arts with academics that I see here. I’ve also just been so impressed with the people I’ve met here.
“I think that my background and record should allow people to feel that I am a good fit,” Krislov continued. “The headline accomplishment was probably that we won the Supreme Court cases on the constitutionality of diversity considerations, and I’m very proud of the enormous public support we garnered from the business community, military and the higher education community.”
During his visit, Student Senate hosted three open forums so the Board of Trustees could evaluate the campus’s reactions to their final candidate. On Wednesday, May 9, a small but interested crowd attended the first presidential forum at First Church in Oberlin. It was the first of three open forums with the candidate, and questions spanned topics from the integration of athletes into the greater Oberlin community to increasing town-gown relations, from accessibility in higher education for low-income students to the highly contentious Fearless campaign.
Krislov seemed most interested in discussing increasing tuition costs, his own desire to teach on campus, options for breaking the Oberlin bubble and increasing community on campus.
“[One] goal would be to build external support for the College’s success; that means financial support,” Krislov said. “You can’t have top-notch everything all at once [while keeping] tuition reasonable.”
When asked by College junior and Student Senator David Casserly about his commitment to environmental sustainability and what actions he would take to ensure that new campus buildings meet green standards, Krislov admitted, “It is not something I have spent a lot of time on, but I know that it is something that is important here.”
“The feedback that we received on Mr. Krislov’s visit was very positive and enthusiastic from all parts of the campus community,” said Lemle. Among students and faculty, however, there is pervasive ambivalence: On one hand they are optimistic about the change inherent in the transition to a new administration, but on the other, questions persist as to the level of involvement that the community had in the selection.
Courtney Merrell, a junior double-degree student and a student representative on the Presidential Search Committee, was positive about Krislov’s selection. “Marvin Krislov has my full confidence as the finalist,” Merrell said. “We said it was a unanimous committee decision, and it is.”
Colin Koffel, College junior and student senator who served on an ad hoc committee that interviewed the presidential candidates, said, “I think he has a lot of potential to understand and embrace the Oberlin ethos, the somewhat weird way we do things.
“What is really important to me is that throughout his whole life he has dedicated himself to social justice issues,” Koffel said, referring to Krislov’s experience with desegregationist activism and affirmative action.
Bruce Richards, chair of the physics and astronomy department, said, “Krislov seems to have strong qualifications for the job; I am feeling optimistic that he will be good for Oberlin.”
College junior and student senator Colin Jones was also assured by Krislov’s track record. “The fact that he has a great record on labor issues and affirmative action is heartening, and I believe his commitment to making Oberlin accessible to low-income and minority students is strong.”
“He was a very qualified candidate who has a history of working towards a diverse student body and extensive fundraising experience,” said Monisola Gbadebo, a double-degree junior and student representative on the ad hoc interview committee. “Because of his rather high profile, I strongly urge students to take the initiative to voice their concerns and show the tenacity it takes to bridge the student/administrative divide.”
Brian Pugh, College junior and co-chair of the Oberlin College Democrats, discussed his expectations for the upcoming president. “I hope that the next president will help the College live up to its progressive tradition.
“I’m glad that the search committee plans to choose someone with a track record of activism on behalf of diversity and fairness like Marvin Krislov,” Pugh continued.
Ronald Kahn, acting chair of the politics department who met Krislov at a General Faculty meeting said, “Personally, he had a nice way about him. He was not arrogant or defensive. He seems to understand Oberlin’s accomplishments, traditions, values and the diversity of the many constituencies that constitute Oberlin College.
“He understands the many challenges that Oberlin College faces, such as in development and in attracting to Oberlin a diverse and talented student body and faculty,” said Kahn. “He had a sense of what he does not know. This was refreshing.”
Despite the positive feedback towards Krislov, many are still unhappy about the secretive search process.
“I understand the motivation for confidentiality in the process. It widens the potential pool of applicants and that should be a good thing,” said Karla Hubbard, associate professor of geology. “Whether it had to stay confidential as long as it did, I am less sure.”
A professor in the African American studies department who spoke on the condition of anonymity tempered apprehension about the search process with optimism about the future:
“Generally, I am a bit skeptical since the majority of the faculty had no role in the process, but am willing to see how the president-elect and the ensuing process works out. I am happy that the selection process moved quickly and that we start fresh in the fall.”