The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News May 4, 2007

Presidential Finalist Selected
Exclusive interview with University of Michigan VP Marvin Krislov
Oberlin’s future?: Marvin Krislov will meet the Oberlin Community next week.

The Presidential Search Committee announced today that it has selected its final candidate for the Oberlin presidency. Marvin Krislov, currently the vice-president and General Counsel at the University of Michigan, met with the Board of Trustees today on campus. His visit coincides with a school-wide mass mailing announcing the choice.

Krislov has plans to visit campus next week to meet with members of the College community in a series of public forums and smaller meetings with students, faculty, staff, town leaders and union organizers. Of particular interest to students is the decision to set aside time for three open forums in lieu of one large event. A schedule will be released this weekend detailing the specifics of the visit, which will span only two days.

“His life is very much in tune with the values of Oberlin,” said PSC and Board of Trustees Chair Robert Lemle.

Krislov led the University of Michigan’s legal defense of its affirmative action admissions policies at the Supreme Court, which voted in 2003 to uphold the constitutionality of taking diversity considerations into account in college admissions.

In addition to having served as an administrator, professor and legal counsel, Krislov also gained experience in the U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of Council to the President of the United States under the Clinton administration.

While Krislov’s acceptance of the position is still contingent upon the Board of Trustees’ official vote of approval in June, Lemle said that the Board, along with the PSC, unanimously endorses Krislov for President, and Krislov himself stated that he will accept the position in the case it is offered to him.

Should Krislov get the official thumbs up, he will begin his tenure as Oberlin’s fourteenth president in July. He will be joined by his wife, a biomedical researcher, and his three children (ages 14, 9 and 6).

This morning, the Review had the opportunity to conduct a personal interview with Krislov at the Oberlin Inn.

The most obvious question is: Why Oberlin?

Oberlin is one of the great institutions of higher education, one that I hold in high regard. I love the business of higher education, and I think that Oberlin does a wonderful job. I’m a big fan of the arts; I love this intermix of the arts with academics that I see here. I’ve also just been so impressed with the people I’ve met here.

What is your understanding of the current issues Oberlin faces, such as financial constraints, faculty cuts, lack of facilities for athletics and the arts, etc.?

One thing I know about Oberlin is that people feel very passionate about these issues, and I think that’s wonderful. In terms of specifics, it’s hard for me to make any sort of judgment right now. I plan to learn and listen and make the best possible judgments based on discussions with members of the community. In a place like Oberlin, it’s important to sit down and talk to everyone.

Along those lines, Oberlin students are very outspoken and can sometimes be very critical of the senior administration. How do you plan to set the student body at ease regarding your qualifications?

I think that my background and record should allow people to feel that I am a good fit. The other thing I’m going to do is work very hard to make people understand that I value their concerns and will work with them. You get to know somebody by working with them and you will find that that’s true by working with me.

You’re coming from a big state school to a small liberal arts college. How do you think you’re going to manage this transition?

I’ve been at a lot of places — Oxford University is governed in semi-autonomous small colleges. Michigan, although a big school, also has some decentralization. All these schools also have a special set of values that are very similar, such as a commitment to higher education and a general curiosity about life. My sense is that these values that I have inherited are the same as Oberlin’s.

How will you balance your commitments as an activist with the day-to-day responsibilities of being a college president with regards to fundraising, for example?

I’ve been doing a lot of different things—I teach undergrad classes and a class in the law school. I’ve led an interdisciplinary committee on ethics in public life. I’ve been involved with everything from athletics programs to programs involving the health system. I enjoy having a variety of jobs, and I rely on a team of people to help me carry out initiatives and support them.

In light of Oberlin’s commitment to diversifying its campus and your previous actions in this area, do you foresee yourself taking any concrete steps towards diversifying admissions?

I don’t know the policies in detail. I know that Oberlin admissions shares the same commitment to diversifying as I do but I’m not in a position to comment specifically.

What changes would you bring to Oberlin? What are your goals for the first year of your presidency?

I’m still a candidate and I don’t know a lot of details. But I do like the idea of having a college that is engaged in its community. I’d like to promote the idea of different parts of the college working together. I want people to feel that there’s a shared ownership of the institution to make sure that faculty, staff and students feel included.

     It’s also important to stay on top of national trends and continue to be a national leader in terms of image as well as the day-to-day reality, as well as to be aware of what these trends and challenges are. It’s very expensive to run a college like this; one thing I will need to do is provide the resources for Oberlin to continue to function and succeed and also be able to offer financial aid to those with less access to money. Oberlin is doing extraordinarily well in these areas, but I imagine that these are the things I would be focusing on.

What are your thoughts on administrative transparency?

I suspect that issue comes up on every campus in the country. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been at a university that has a lot of transparency and accountability, and I imagine Oberlin’s policy is also inclusive and accountable. Sometimes we’ll need to have confidentiality, and we’ll have to balance that against the notion of transparency. I will try to be as transparent and inclusive as possible, recognizing that this commitment is already in place at Oberlin and that there is often a legitimate need for confidentiality.

What are your thoughts on the confidentiality of Oberlin’s presidential search and your involvement in it?

Having known people who are in searches, and having considered job changes myself in the past, it’s important to be considerate of people’s need for confidentiality. At the same time, there are often legitimate concerns for transparency as well. Even at public universities, though, there is a need for greater and greater confidentiality on searches. Enormous harm has been brought to people’s careers; home institutions have been very angry at these people, and oftentimes their lives are irrevocably changed. In this world, because of the media scrutiny and probably because of the internet as well, lots of things can affect the outcome of a search such as this one.

     At this point, my boss knows I am being considered for the position of Oberlin’s president, and some other people know, too. After this meeting I will be sending out e-mails to selected others.

What was your most significant accomplishment at your current institution, and how might this reflect on the accomplishments you hope to have at Oberlin?
The headline accomplishment was probably that we won the Supreme Court cases on the constitutionality of diversity considerations and I’m very proud of the enormous public support we garnered from the business community, military and the higher education community. Less publicly, the work I’ve done with students to help make a difference in their lives is something I am equally, if not more, proud of.


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