Q&A: University President Morton Schapiro discusses his tenure, divestment and the Northwestern future


Graphic by Yunkyo Kim

University President Morton Schapiro. The Daily interviewed University President Morton Schapiro on diversification of admissions, divestment and his legacy as he prepares to conclude his tenure in 2022.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

In mid-March, members of The Daily interviewed University President Morton Schapiro on diversification of admissions, divestment and his legacy. Schapiro said he looked forward to the future of the University, but that he had no control over the decisions the Board of Trustees made. University spokesperson Jeri Ward was present. This interview was lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: You recently announced plans to conclude your tenure in August of 2022, which was decided back in 2014. Did recent events have any bearing on you or the Board of Trustees’ decision to not extend the contract?

Schapiro: It was absolutely confirmed in July 2019 at the beginning of my final three years — and now I still have, God willing, another year and a half — but it’s been in order. You really need to know this far in advance, because you have to plan the timing of the campaign and timing of a lot of other things.

The Daily: Under your tenure, Northwestern became one of the top 10 ranked universities in the country. You noted in your March 4 message to the community that our current undergraduate admissions rate is below 7 percent, and that the University saw similar gains and selectivity across graduate and professional school programs. How do you balance gains in such selectivity with calls for more inclusivity and diversity in the admissions process?

Schapiro: I particularly am a very big fan of public high schools, having gone to one and really caring about those schools, particularly Evanston Township High School, and the public schools, magnet and non-magnet, from Chicago. I read a lot of files from public high schools. And the good news is that many of them are lower-income, so we’re able to continue that commitment to Pell eligibility, or they have other racial backgrounds that allow us to be more diverse.

When you’re really selective, you can come together with any class you want. So, it’s tremendous potential now that we’re one of the most selective schools in the world.

The Daily: You said you are regularly meeting with any Northwestern community members interested in discussing police abolition. Since then you’ve been having conversations with students. How has that influenced your approach to policing on campus?

Schapiro: There certainly has been a lot of discussion on abolition. People have been very generous with their advice about, you know, podcasts and books and lectures. I continue to educate myself and learn more and more about it. We’ve also made changes. We don’t typically do safety checks with armed police anymore.

The Daily: Does the University have any plans to divest from fossil fuels?

Schapiro: I think it’s extremely important. That said, I have absolutely no role in the investment and the endowment. I have a lot of roles as President, but approving the avail off the endowment — the total amount we take each year — that’s the Board’s call. That’s a prerogative of the board and they exercise that prerogative. I don’t have responsibility. I don’t have authority. But that said, you know, when I interviewed Amy Falls in particular, we had a long, substantive discussion about fossil fuels and a whole range of different things.

The Daily: What role will you play in choosing your successor?

Schapiro: If the search committee wants to meet with me, not to talk about candidates, which I will never do, but if they want to talk in general about what I think it’s important to be a successful president, I’ll do it.

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