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Arthur Levine: Letter to the TC Community

September 14, 2005

Dear Friends of Teachers College,

I am writing to tell you that I plan to step down as President of Teachers College on July 1, 2006. Please know there are no scandals brewing and the College's health and mine are just fine, though I could stand to lose about 25 pounds.

There are two reasons for my decision. First, the timing is right for a transition. Before coming to Teachers College, I chaired the higher education graduate program at Harvard and spent my summers teaching senior college administrators. Each year, I warned the presidents and would-be presidents that they should observe the common wisdom of leaving after a decade in office. (The average tenure for presidents is less than seven years.) I have since ignored my own advice. When my tenth year at TC arrived, the College was about to make a change of potentially historic importance, mobilizing its resources -- people, programs, and finances -- to combat the largest problem facing education today, what is commonly called the achievement gap. After three years of deliberations, a College-wide strategic planning committee had recommended the primary focus of Teachers College be on educational equity -- overcoming the disparities in educational access, expectations and outcomes between the most advantaged and disadvantaged in society. I wanted to see this through.

Over the past two years, that committee's recommendation has been translated into The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College. An Executive Director, Michael Rebell, who led New York's successful fiscal equity suit, has just started work. TC trustee Laurie Tisch has graciously agreed to serve as chair of the Campaign board. The components of the Campaign -- action research, targeted dissemination and implementation of findings, and demonstration projects -- have been determined by a planning committee. Initial funding has been raised. In October, the Campaign will be officially inaugurated with a national symposium on the costs of educational inequity, bringing together policy makers, practitioners, scholars, media and funders. A year later, a state-by-state educational equity report card will be released. In short, the Campaign is firmly in place; we have acted upon the agenda we set in motion 11 years ago; and it is time for new leadership.

Second, my career has alternated between educational research and administration. After 11 years as president, I am eager to return to my research and writing. I miss teaching as well. For the past five years, I have been leading a national study of America's schools of education. The scope and pace of the work are increasing. I plan to spend the year after my presidency working on the project full-time, completing the writing and trying to get the recommendations adopted. In fall 2007, I will return to Teachers College as a professor.

As for the year ahead, I addressed the TC community today on the "State of the College," an annual event at which I discuss the condition of the College and the agenda for the academic year. As in the past, the 2005-06 agenda is substantial, but it focuses principally on continuing and completing activities already underway, including 1) further implementation of the equity Campaign and engagement of the TC community in its work; 2) carrying out the remaining strategic planning activities in areas such as financial aid, student life, the Columbia relationship, technology, staff development and right sizing for the College; 3) completing/implementing studies of benefits policy, space needs, regional accreditation review, and alternative revenue sources; 4) continuing/completing physical plant improvements such as construction of the Cowin Conference Center and the remainder of the library as well as refurbishment of offices, residence halls and common space; and 5) continuing to build both diversity and community at TC. We have a lot to accomplish this year.

I feel blessed for the opportunity to work with an extraordinary group of students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni. It is an honor and a privilege to be given the chance to preside over an institution with so rich a history and so promising a future. I want to thank all of you that I have gotten to work with and know over the past 11 years. I am so grateful to you for making this time so very special for me and my family. When I step down from the presidency in June, I will leave as I arrived, "rumpled and behind schedule."

Warmly,
Arthur Levine
President

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