University President Lee Bollinger named Latin American history professor John Coatsworth provost on Friday. Coatsworth, who is stepping down as dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, has been serving as interim provost since July.
“I am, personally, very pleased that John will serve in this vital University role and as my colleague,” Bollinger said in a statement. “It is a gift to all of us for John will bring his wonderful talents to bear the work ahead.”
At SIPA, Coatsworth will be succeeded by Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Robert Lieberman in the interim, Bollinger said. Administrators will look for a new permanent dean in the coming months.
Coatsworth was named interim provost following Claude Steele’s departure last June. He said that he is looking forward to becoming more familiar with people and schools across the University as permanent provost.
“There’s an opportunity to make Columbia greater than the sum of its parts, and that means having a provost that brings schools together,” Coatsworth said.
Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin, who has worked with Coatsworth since he was named interim provost, called him “a pleasure to work with.”
“John Coatsworth is a strong leader and is the perfect choice as provost,” Kasdin said.
Coatsworth came to Columbia as a visiting professor at SIPA in 2006, quickly becoming SIPA’s interim dean following Lisa Anderson’s departure. Bollinger named him permanent dean in 2008, and over the last few years he has overseen SIPA’s transition to financial and academic independence from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“John has been a transformational dean at SIPA, leading the school’s transition into a fully self-governing unit of the University,” Bollinger said in the statement.
A scholar of Latin American economic and international history, Coatsworth has previously taught at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.
He became well-known early in his tenure as SIPA dean for bringing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to campus for a controversial speaking appearance. Coatsworth was both assailed by political pundits for hosting such a politically controversial figure and praised by many at Columbia for his calm handling of the event.
As provost, Coatsworth is the University’s chief academic officer, responsible for academic planning and budgeting. The provost’s jobs include developing the University’s budget, overseeing long-term financial planning, and working with faculty members on the Tenure Review Advisory Committee to recommend tenure candidates to the president and trustees.
Coatsworth has not been granted tenure at Columbia, possibly because he arrived at the University and accelerated through the administrative ranks so quickly. The faculty handbook says that only tenured professors can vote on tenure decisions, but Coatsworth said that his lack of tenure should not be an issue, explaining that his appointment letter gives him all the rights and privileges of a tenured professor and that ultimately, he only makes recommendations to the president and trustees.
During his time as interim provost, Coatsworth has been working on issues including retirement benefits and governing structures for new science buildings. The retirement issue in particular has taken much longer to resolve than originally expected, but Coatsworth said that a new retirement plan should be ready this week.
“It’s the issues you don’t know about ahead of time that always take up the most time,” he said.
Coatsworth was appointed interim provost after Steele abruptly resigned last year. Steele returned to Stanford University, where he had previously served as chair of the psychology department, to become the dean of the School of Education.
Steele, Columbia’s first African-American provost, had served in the position for two years.
Sammy Roth contributed reporting.