BREAKING: Alan Brinkley Retires As Provost

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Alan Brinkley
, who has served as University Provost for the past five years, will be stepping down from the position at the end of this year.  The news was announced in an e-mail this evening to the Columbia University community. In the email, Brinkley writes that “I feel that it is now time for me to return to research and teaching.” He also says he will serve until a successor is named. 

Brinkley joined the faculty in 1991, and is probably best known to students for his extremely popular history lecture classes. The current iteration, “U.S. History 1919-45,” is meeting this semester in the famous 309 Havemeyer lecture hall. Brinkley also has contributed to or written numerous books, including two widely-used high school textbooks. His time as Provost has been perhaps most recently marked by the tenure controversies surrounding Nadia Abu El-Haj and Joseph Massad. More importantly, though, he is the most popular Columbia professor on Facebook.

The full e-mail is pasted below the jump.

UPDATE (9:25 PM): President Bollinger has released a short statement of thanks, also posted below the jump.


For the past five years, I have had the great privilege of serving as University Provost.  Columbia has always been for me not only a workplace, but a home, and it has been an honor to have played a part in an eventful period in the institution’s life.  But I feel that it is now time for me to return to research and teaching, and so I have informed the President that I will be leaving the provostship at the end of this academic year.  I will of course continue to serve until a successor is named.

I am deeply grateful to President Bollinger for giving me the opportunity to serve the University and for the tremendous pleasure of working with him.  I am grateful as well to our remarkable Trustees, to our great deans, and to my extraordinary colleagues in the central administration who make it possible for this great institution to function and flourish.  I have been blessed with a selfless, hardworking, and extremely talented staff in my own office.  And I owe a particularly important debt to the many faculty, students, and alumni who have helped me so often over the last several years.  Columbia is extremely fortunate to have so many talented and generous people ready to serve the University, and I have been fortunate to have had the chance to get to know and work with many of you.

Whatever I have helped to achieve in my time as provost has been the result of the indispensable support of President Bollinger and the creativity and commitment of my colleagues in the Columbia community.  Together, we have made significant progress on some of the most important issues facing the University:  among them strengthening of the quality and diversity of our faculty in all our schools, increasing attention to undergraduate education, creating new opportunities for housing and schooling for Columbia families, enhancing the arts in the life of the University, internationalizing our academic programs,  strengthening the institutions serving the humanities, improving our important relationships with our partner institutions, Barnard and Teachers College, and launching the first new Morningside science building in almost twenty years.  

This has been an exciting and momentous time in the life of Columbia as we have planned for a significant expansion of our space and resources and have imagined an even greater future for this great institution.  I am fortunate to have been a participant in this period of exceptional achievement and of progress toward new goals.  I will leave with enormous confidence in Columbia’s future, and I look forward to rejoining the faculty.


                                                        Alan Brinkley

Dear fellow member of the Columbia community:

I have loved working with Alan as Provost.  The University has benefited tremendously from his extraordinary intelligence and enormous good will.  We should all be thankful.  In due time, I will announce an advisory committee to help me identify Alan’s successor as Provost.


Lee C. Bollinger



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  1. i love

    alan brinkley. what a classy guy.

  2. Anonymous  


  3. while  

    he may be a good Professor, he was a pretty awful Provost, and has done some pretty fucked up things during his time. Good riddance.

  4. david blaine

    that david blaine special is on ABC right now.. maybe they'll show the columbia/lerner footage

  5. ???  

    why is everyone leaving? who is driving everyone away

  6. ...  

    the prezbo follow up email seems hastily executed and abnormal for a prezbo email. perhaps this was unexpected?

  7. bwog  

    where are you at with the tragic death of a columbia professor on monday morning. surely that is somewhat newsworthy

  8. nooooo  

    first galil, then quigley, now brinkley!?!? where is everyone at this school going!?

    • Alum

      Brinkley will have been provost for five years when he steps down. That's a normal length of service in a senior administrative post. Besides, he said when he took the job that he expected to keep it only for five or six years.

      There are about 20 or 25 top academic posts at CU, including the president, provost, deans (including the presidents of Barnard and TC, who hold the rank of dean in the university) and various VPs. If 5 years is a normal tenure, then we should expect to see 4 or 5 resignations or retirements each year -- or more if the incumbents have already served for a long time. There is nothing extraordinary about the number of resignations we have seen recently.

      Galil was dean of SEAS for 12 years, and even then he left only because he was given the presidency of his alma mater. Quigley will have been dean of CC for 14 by the time he steps down. The question isn't why they quit, but why they were willing to stay in office so long.

  9. well

    The Dean resignations were expected. Zvi and Quigley have been on board since the Rupp presidency. Ditto Chris Colombo (and I think the GS Student Affairs dean as well).

    Bollinger has the chance to reshape the Columbia undergraduate experience from the top down for the first time since he got here. Anyone else remember the "President's Task force for Undergraduate Education" that Bollinger launched in October 2006? The one with 32 professors and a mandate to figure out if/how students were to get involved? I'm just surprised Brinkley didn't want to see this process through, considering he basically sits atop the pyramid of the academic structure of the University... also consider that the SEAS Dean Search just had to reboot from scratch this summer.

    Lastly, regarding the Brinkley hate - some people have major axes to grind with Brinkley after the David Project/Minuteman fiasco.

    • oh yeah

      And the floated idea about bringing CC/SEAS and GS closer to reduce redundancies and inefficiencies? Yeah. Keep that all in mind over the next few years. Assuming most of you will be around. Which you won't.

  10. anti-brinkleyism


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