In order to ensure proper oversight with an increasing number of off-campus commitments, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg tapped top medical administrator Dr. John “Skip” Williams as University provost earlier this month.
The first provost in 14 years, Williams will oversee the offices of communication and governmental, international and corporate affairs as well as handling daily administrative duties during Trachtenberg’s absences. Williams will retain his title as vice president of health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Trachtenberg cut the provost position after he came to the University in the late ’80s, who said he felt a provost was needed again.
“I will be on the road a little more and the provost acts as an insurance policy,” he said, noting that he estimates he could be away from the University for almost a third of the academic year.
Trachtenberg, who regularly goes on fundraising trips and was recently named to chair the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and added that having Williams as provost will ensure that the University can run properly in case of an emergency while Trachtenberg is out of town.
“If I had been out of the city on September 11, we would have needed someone to communicate to students,” he said. In the absence of a provost, Trachtenberg said Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Don Lehman has historically handled administrative duties.
While Trachtenberg pegged Williams to fill the role in September, Faculty Senate concerns over the extent of Williams’ authority required Trachtenberg to curtail his duties to oversight of the two offices.
The initial plan would have given Williams authority over the Law School while the other schools would still report to Lehman. Faculty Senate members were concerned that the plan would split the academic departments.
“The primary issue was that all the schools should report to one person … this is how universities function,” Faculty Senate Chair Lilien Robinson said.
Trachtenberg turned in a revised proposal cutting out the Law School in November and Robinson said the senate has been assured that all academic deans would continue to report to Lehman in Trachtenberg’s absence.
Williams said he is looking forward to taking on the responsibilities the provost position provides and working with Vice President for Communication Mike Freedman and Vice President for Governmental, International and Corporate Affairs Richard Sawaya.
He said he was “being pursued” by other schools and received a job offer from another university medical center which would have given him authority over five schools.
Williams said the new position and unfinished work at the GW prompted him so stay.
“My job at the Medical Center is not done yet,” he said. “One of the things we want to do is take a serious look at how students are educated today … post-9/11, we have to reevaluate how we are training our future health professionals.”