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Today is Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 04:55 AM.


Q: What is the role of the dean of the faculty?
A: As I see it, the main role of the dean's office is to support the faculty and the academic program. This means, first, helping the faculty as whole do what it wants to do. The dean's job is not to make policy but to help the collective faculty make policy, largely by providing useful information and support services. Beyond this, I think that the dean also has a fundamental collegial role in supporting individual faculty members--junior and senior alike. This means giving them the kind of support they need in order to function as effectively as possible as scholar/teachers.

Q: What is your vision for the faculty?
A: We have about 110 faculty members. In many ways, it's a diverse group, in others not. But however diverse it is or may become, I would hope that we could maintain, and perhaps even enrich, the sense in which we see ourselves as engaged in a common endeavor, a single enterprise. I'm referring to an old idea of collegiality, according to which each of us comes to care deeply about what the others are doing. To my mind, this has always been a fundamental feature of Reed College, and one of our great strengths. But it's also a fragile thing, and the general culture of American higher education tends to work against it. So, to the degree that faculty members are interested in maintaining a powerful and rich sense of collegiality, I think that's great; but to the extent they're not, so be it.

Q: Where were you before Reed?
A: I spent two years teaching at the University of Denver. I was happy enough there, but I was also interested in moving, either back to the East Coast or else to a better institution. There were a few--and only a few--non-East Coast institutions that I would have been interested in. Reed was one of them.

Q: Do you remember when you first heard of Reed?
A: I was in high school. I don't remember the exact circumstances. But it seems that I've always thought of Carleton, Reed, and Pomona as the strongest liberal arts colleges outside of the East Coast.

Q: When you saw the job at Reed advertised did your heart leap?
A: Certainly not. The job market was very discouraging in those days, as it is today, and my heart most assuredly did not leap. After all, my chances for getting a position like that were not likely to be very good. Of course, it would do no harm to apply. So I did, and I got lucky. I had an offer at the same time from the University of Delaware, and I would have moved from Denver to Delaware if I hadn't gotten the offer from Reed.

Q: Why do you think you were selected?
A: I have no idea. The week before my Reed interview I had interviewed at Delaware. That interview had gone extremely well, but the Reed interview did not go very well, or so I thought at the time. I was frankly surprised to get the offer.

Q: Were you given a faculty orientation?
A: I don't think there was a formal faculty orientation in those days. There is now, and I think it's a valuable thing. Still, as with most worthwhile activities, a great deal of what's important in teaching at Reed has to be learned on the job. It's not an easy thing to do, and I suspect that most of us are constantly seeking ways to do it better. I know that I am. Orientation for new faculty is certainly useful and important, but it's also important for all of us never to stop talking with one another about our teaching experiences.

Q: How did you develop your interest in political science and political philosophy?
A: I didn't know what to do when I graduated from college. This was the late '60s--1970, actually--and things were pretty screwy. For lack of anything better to do, I started the master's program in political science at Fordham. I was driving a cab in New York at night to pay the bills. When I registered, I had to get approval from the chairman of the political science department. So I went to see him. He looked at my proposed schedule of classes and told me that I had to take a course in political philosophy. I remember very clearly thinking that I could not for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to devote lots of time to the study of political theory and the history of political thought--all these musty, old, obsolete texts. Of course, I had no choice, so I took the course. It was okay. One day, about mid-semester, I was sitting in class. The professor was a Jesuit, a fellow named Francis Canavan who was, and still is, an accomplished, intelligent, and deeply dedicated scholar. I don't recall what he was talking about that day, but I remember suddenly saying to myself, "Wait a minute. This is it. Political theory. This is what I want to do." And I've been doing it ever since. You may call this my epiphany, if you wish. I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it was, why I decided I wanted to do this. It had something to do with keeping these texts alive, keeping certain ideas alive, participating in and, perhaps, contributing to an important tradition. Also, trying to get clear about some important things. In any case, I suddenly had a vocation.