Letter to the Editor: Buffett Institute directors support Eikenberry’s appointment

Dear Editor:

As has been reported in The Daily Northwestern, Karl Eikenberry’s appointment is stirring up controversy among some Northwestern faculty and students. People are criticizing the appointment process, his credentials and his military background. Understandably, many wonder what impact his appointment will have on the Buffett programs and activities they value.

We have listened to and discussed what the critics are saying. We, too, care deeply about the future success of Buffett, and we are strongly committed to the values on which the Institute has been built, including diversity, scholarly independence and academic freedom. In our meetings with Karl, we have gotten a sense of who he is and what he cares about. Here is what we have concluded:

  1. Karl is committed to advancing the mission of the Buffett Institute, which is to address critical global issues through collaborative research, public dialogue and engaged scholarship.
  1. Karl is an open-minded person who is not bringing a pre-conceived “master plan” to the Buffett Institute. On the contrary, he wants to stage an open, inclusive and systematic strategic planning process upon his arrival next fall.
  1. Karl recognizes the value of our undergraduate programs, from GESI study abroad to our affiliated student groups. He knows they are highly successful and celebrates the key roles played by students, faculty and staff.
  1. He shares the kinds of ambitions for Buffett that we have: to build world-class research and educational programs that contribute to our understanding of important global issues.
  1. He knows that faculty engagement and intellectual leadership are critical for research success. There is no other way to do research other than by working with faculty.
  1. Unilaterally reshaping the work of the Buffett Institute around some new goal or agenda, as some fear, is not possible. For example, the Buffett gift brings with it six additional half faculty lines, which means that Buffett will have to partner with another department or school in order to hire someone new. Cooperation and collaboration are essential at Buffett.
  1. Karl’s background is an asset, not a liability. He brings new connections and a different perspective. He can open doors and unlock opportunities.

For these reasons, we believe Karl’s appointment is a positive step forward for the Buffett Institute. We respect that others may disagree with our optimism, and that is their right. A university is a place where people can disagree. As the current directors of the Buffett Institute, we are confident that Karl is well-qualified and well-suited to lead the Buffett Institute. We welcome him to Northwestern and look forward to working with him.


Bruce G. Carruthers
Director, Buffett Institute for Global Studies
John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology

Brian T. Hanson
Director of Programs, Research and Strategic Planning, Buffett Institute for Global Studies
Lecturer in International Studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences