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Letter to the Editor: Schapiro, Linzer strongly back Karl Eikenberry’s appointment as executive director of Buffett Institute

Morton Schapiro and Dan Linzer

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The Daily Northwestern yesterday published a letter to the editor by a group of faculty regarding the appointment of Karl Eikenberry as executive director of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies. As we have communicated previously to faculty members, their concern about his appointment is noted, but we strongly disagree.

A search committee that included senior faculty and that was led by President Emeritus Henry Bienen, himself one of the leaders in global studies as a political scientist, selected a small group of finalists from an impressive list of candidates. The committee found that each finalist was well “above the bar” for leadership of the Buffett Institute, and we agree completely with that assessment. Among the finalists, and consistent with our goal for this new position, Karl stood out in his global engagement and visibility; access to a broad array of scholars, government officials, and world leaders; and ability to integrate the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints of the military, diplomatic corps, and academia. President Obama appointed him as Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Karl will broaden access to people and information for faculty and students involved in global studies. Indeed, the goal was to identify someone who would complement, and not simply supplement, the expertise we already have at Northwestern, and Karl will do exactly that. Throughout his career, Karl has demonstrated a leadership style that effectively engages diverse sets of stakeholders, and we are confident he will do that as Executive Director of the Buffett Institute. Karl will join the already strong leadership team of Institute directors Bruce Carruthers and Brian Hanson, along with others, to collaborate with faculty, students and staff in shaping the trajectory of the Buffett Institute.

Although not a traditional academic, Karl is in his fifth year at Stanford as the William J. Perry Fellow for International Security. He has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses, while conducting research on international security and foreign policy. Karl was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he is also a member of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, set up by Congress to represent United States institutions and civic organizations on how the arts and humanities contribute to America’s global success.

In addition to the faculty who were on the search committee, a number of faculty met with Karl during on-campus interviews. We received from those faculty quite a different set of comments than expressed in the letter that was published in The Daily Northwestern yesterday. It is to be expected that a range of opinions will be found across the faculty; it is also to be expected that members of our academic community will engage new colleagues and opportunities with open minds, and will reach conclusions based on their own, direct interactions.

The concern expressed by faculty who signed the letter makes clear the importance of the Buffett Institute and the impact it has within and beyond the University. The active engagement of faculty on this matter also demonstrates how Northwestern provides an environment that enables strong differences in perspective to be debated.

Sincerely,

Morton Schapiro, President and Professor
Dan Linzer, Provost and Professor

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