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Claude M. Steele Heads Out West

There are some New York substitutes that just can't match the real thing

Crazy news, good peoples: Claude M. Steele—University Provost and person whose name you’ve seen on emails so often you feel like you know him—has resigned. Stanford, former home to Steele for nearly two decades, offered him the position of Dean of the School of Education. Steele had only just arrived at Columbia from Stanford in 2009. We understand, education is important too! You have received or will receive statements from Steele and PrezBo. They’re below.

Update: Stanford has posted their own announcement. You might be interested to know that before he came to Columbia, Steele previously held a named appointment as Professor in the Social Sciences, was director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and director of Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, during his years at Stanford. Claude, we hardly knew you!

First, Steele:

Dear Columbia Colleagues,

It is with a mix of emotions, the first of which is a genuine sadness, that I write to let you know that I have accepted a position as Dean of the School of Education at Stanford University, beginning in the fall of this year. Given my excitement about Columbia’s future and my deep engagement working with Lee and so many of you in planning for it, this was far from an easy decision – perhaps the most difficult of my career. Dorothy and I pulled up stakes and came east after 18 years at Stanford fully expecting Morningside Heights to be our personal and professional home for many years to come and we had no thoughts of leaving anytime soon. I love the job I have. It is a fascinating, challenging and constantly stimulating experience to be the Provost of a great research university, especially one that is thriving on so many important fronts and that is so well led by Lee, an extraordinary team of deans, as well as by its faculty. And we love being in New York.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. The decision to accept the Stanford offer came down to a difficult-to-pass-up opportunity to play a role in the field of education at this critical time in our nation’s history. I have spent my career trying to understand processes that drive educational achievement, and how to reduce the group inequalities in school achievement that so plague our society. In my new role I will have a chance to develop the implications of that work for policy and practice in schools and school systems – as well as to influence how educators themselves are educated. It is an important time to be rejoining that vital mission. Nothing less than this rare opportunity to do so at such a strong school of education could have lured me away from my current position at Columbia.

So, while I did not and would not have sought any other academic leadership post at this stage in my career, the chance to have an impact on this critical public issue, as well as the promise of a little more time for scholarship and writing, proved too attractive to turn down – a decision that was further bolstered by its bringing our family back together in the same time zone.

We will always be thankful for the way we have been welcomed at Columbia, we leave with considerable regret but also confidence that this personal change for us will in no way slow the extraordinary forward momentum that this university has established. I will forever be a friend to Columbia and a colleague in the missions we will continue to share.

With the warmest of wishes,

Claude M. Steele

PrezBo’s blistering reply after the jump.

Dear Fellow Members of the Columbia Community,

Though personally saddened by Claude’s decision to return to Stanford, I completely understand this life choice. Given Claude’s great talents and the importance of the issues he wants to explore and resolve, this is clearly a benefit to society, while it is equally a loss for us at Columbia. I would add that choosing the right course for one’s professional and family life is rarely easy, and we can all empathize with how difficult this has been as Claude and Dorothy weighed this unexpected opportunity.

I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from working with Claude over these past two years. On behalf of the institution, we all appreciate his many contributions to our community, not least his embodiment of an outstanding scholar and teacher.

I will write again shortly with a plan for an interim provost to begin the new academic year and a process to select the next provost.


Lee C. Bollinger

Naked cowboy via Wikimedia

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  • TRAITOR says:


  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous digging the oregon trail refs

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous i want alan brinkley back. he wrote my 11th grade history textbook.

    by the way this guy only worked here for one year??

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum He started in 2009 and is leaving in 2011. By my reckoning, that’s two years.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Started: September ’09
        Ended:May ’11

        which is less than 2 years. please, please — if you want to be annoying and nitpicky please get your reckoning straightened out.

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous two academic years doofus

        2. Alum says:

          @Alum This is June, not May, and Steele’s resignation will not take effect until later in the summer. By the time he leaves he will have served for 22 or 23 months, which is far closer to two years than to one.

  • BC '13 says:

    @BC '13 While I guess this is relevant to me because Steele was *University* Provost, as a Barnard student, I have no clue who the guy is.
    So, this email read like an it’s-not-you-it’s-me break-up letter from a complete stranger.

    1. CC '14 says:

      @CC '14 I feel you… I have no idea who this guy is either

    2. um says:

      @um Perhaps this shouldn’t be relevant to you, as a Barnard student. (Shouldn’t, that is, not isn’t.)

      1. lol says:

        @lol So much hate for Barnard. When will it ever end?

      2. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous derrr derrrrrrrrrrrrr

        considering we take CU classes, yes, it very much is relevant.

        1. CC'11 says:

          @CC'11 not to mention you get columbia degrees too!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I completely understand this life choice too – run away from CU as far as u can!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous who he is in real life, but he’s the guy in psych 101 who had two groups of kids take standardized tests, one group indicating their race/ethnicity prior to testing, the other not; ‘member? the ones who had to say what race they were performed closer to stereotypes.

    good luck claudipants.

    1. CC'13 says:

      @CC'13 omg WHAT. that was HIM?! i remember watching that in AP Psych. i wish i had known that while he was still here!

      then again, i probably wouldn’t have done anything different had i known that.

      1. its called says:

        @its called stereotype threat. read about it.

  • best break-up letter ever. says:

    @best break-up letter ever. By the end of it, I actually felt like I understood his decision to go back to his ex.

  • Cee-Lo Green, CC ’12 says:

    @Cee-Lo Green, CC ’12 I see the the school ranked fifth has a new provost
    And I’m like, “Fuck you!”
    Oo, oo, ooo
    I guess the change in our endowment wasn’t enough
    I’m like, “Fuck you!
    And fuck Steele too!”
    ‘Cause if we had better weather, we’d still be with ya
    Now ain’t that some shit? (ain’t that some shit?)
    Although there’s pain in my chest
    We still wish you the best with a…
    Fuck you!
    Oo, oo, ooo

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous have Zvi Galil back as Provost!

    1. Hmmm says:

      @Hmmm Intriguing idea. A good one.

  • ... says:

    @... read: morningside heights kinda sucks and is a bit dangerous, the administration of columbia seems a little too obsessed expansion and development; at the expense of it’s students, literally and quite frankly i want to be part of the solution to the stratification of education, rather than part of the problem.

    f u, f u, f u, you’re cool, i’m out.

    1. it's literally showing says:

      @it's literally showing *its

  • GS '12 says:

    @GS '12 “I would add that choosing the right course for one’s professional and family life is rarely easy, and we can all empathize with how difficult this has been as Claude and Dorothy weighed this unexpected opportunity”.

    I am happy for the man and wish him well.

  • hmmmmm says:

    @hmmmmm i smell robert kasdin all over this

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous He seems so amazing. It’s like realizing how the person breaking up with you is even more fantastic than you though, because of the kindness and consideration with which they’re..well, dumping you. :(

  • hey says:

    @hey can i take art hum as a second semester senior? or is that too late? just a junior tryin’ to plan my life.

  • collage papers says:

    @collage papers I have read few of the articles on your website, and I really like your style of blogging. I added it to my favorites blog site list and will be checking back soon.

  • Not Harmony Hunter says:

    @Not Harmony Hunter I hope he finds Harmony in his new position.

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