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Karl Eikenberry will not step in as executive director of Buffett Institute

Tyler Pager and Julia Jacobs

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Karl Eikenberry will no longer serve as executive director of the Buffett Institute, Provost Dan Linzer announced Thursday in an email to Buffett faculty.

Northwestern announced last fall that Eikenberry was selected from a search committee to fill the new role of executive director of the Institute. Eikenberry, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, was set to begin the position in September.

Students and and faculty, however, raised numerous concerns about his appointment. In a letter to The Daily, more than 40 faculty called for the University to rescind Eikenberry’s appointment. However, University President Morton Schapiro and Linzer wrote another letter in support of Eikenberry, and Faculty Senate passed a resolution backing the appointment. A resolution calling on the University to rescind Eikenberry’s appointment was introduced to Associated Student Government Senate, but had not yet been voted on.

“Over the past several months, together with Ambassador Eikenberry, we continued to assess the conditions required for an executive director to achieve the desired change, and agreed that several are not yet in place,” Linzer wrote in the email.

Political science and legal studies Prof. Jacqueline Stevens, who helped organize the faculty letter opposing Eikenberry’s appointment in February, said the former ambassador was not an appropriate candidate for the job considering his advocacy for using humanities and social sciences research to advance U.S. soft power overseas and his lack of academic qualifications, including the fact he does not have a Ph.D. If the administration renews the search for a candidate, Stevens told The Daily she and her colleagues will push for a “more transparent and consultative process” than was used the first time around.

Weinberg senior Neha Reddy, who helped author the ASG resolution, said she hopes more faculty voices — and perhaps student perspectives — will be incorporated going forward.

The ASG resolution, which was postponed at the April 7 meeting, has been dropped, and the forum scheduled for Wednesday night to inform students about Eikenberry’s appointment has been cancelled, Reddy said.

“(Thursday) morning was such a big shock,” Reddy said. “Really great news, but still a lot of questions. I’m not sure we’ll ever know why Eikenberry is no longer the head of Buffett.”

Linzer and Eikenberry did not respond to requests for a comment.

This story was updated at 1:20 a.m. with comments from Jacqueline Stevens and Neha Reddy.

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