In an email sent to Columbia students and faculty Friday, President Lee Bollinger announced the appointment of Ira Katznelson, CC ’66, to the interim position of university provost.

Katznelson will be tasked with taking care of the University’s budget and finances. He will also help decide “who should be recommended to the president and trustees for tenure,” per the Office of the Provost.

At Columbia, Katznelson is a Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, working on comparative histories of the United States and writing on the history of ideas. He is also, as of recently, the Deputy Director of Columbia World Projects, the University’s program supporting students and faculty in developing real-world solutions for global issues.

He has a number of accolades to his name, having won both the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award in Political Science in 2014. He holds honorary doctorates from The New School (1994), Queens College (2016), and the University of Cambridge (2018). He has been either a fellow and/or a president at a number of institutions; he has most recently been made a fellow at the British Academy.

In 1979, Katznelson served as a chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago. He moved to The New School for Social Research in 1983, where he served as Dean of Graduate Faculty. Returning to teach at Columbia in 1994, he served as the Acting Vice President and Dean of the Faculty for the Arts and Sciences in 2003 until the appointment of Nicholas Dirks in 2004. During his tenure, he is believed to have been involved in the controversial decision to not grant tenure to then-professor Mark Slouka of the School of the Arts’ writing division. During the 2004-2005 school year, Katznelson chaired an ad hoc faculty committee created by President Bollinger in response to the controversy surrounding the 2004 documentary film Columbia Unbecoming.

In making the appointment, President Bollinger has said that he will “continue to make plans to identify the permanent Provost.”

The full email can be read below.

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am pleased to announce that I have appointed Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, as Interim Provost.

Ira, a graduate of Columbia College, is a scholar of the highest caliber. His analytical histories of the United States in comparative perspective and his writing on the history of ideas have been awarded various recognitions, including the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, and he has served as President of the American Political Science Association. Recently elected a Fellow of the British Academy, he also is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society. Ira is an experienced administrator, having served as a departmental chair at the University of Chicago, Dean of the Graduate Faculty at The New School for Social Research, and, at Columbia, in a prior interim role, as Acting Vice President for Arts and Sciences. More recently, he joined Columbia World Projects as Deputy Director to ensure that CWP is deeply connected to scholarship at the University and on a larger scale.

We are deeply fortunate that Ira has spent three decades enriching Columbia in innumerable ways. As I continue to make plans to identify the permanent Provost, I am delighted that he has agreed to this interim appointment.


Lee C. Bollinger


Photo via The New School