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Updated: Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin to step down

Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin will step down at the end of this academic year, the University announced Monday.

Dobkin has been a faculty member at the University since 1981 and served as chair of the computer science department from 1994 to 2003. He was appointed dean of the faculty in 2003 and oversees all academic departments. Dobkin also serves as secretary of the Faculty Advisory Committee on Appointments and Advancements and the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy.

University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 said that Dobkin is a man who is well-known for his relationship with each member of the faculty.

“I think the wonderful thing about David is that he has really learned every department in this university, so if you ask him about a member of the faculty, he knows who that person is, he knows their achievements, he knows their concerns, he knows what their sense of humor is like, and to get to know an entire faculty like ours personally like he did is really what makes Princeton a strong place,” he explained.

He added that Dobkin’s legacy would be the lineup of faculty he assembled during his term as dean.

“As you know, David likes to think of himself as a collector and he collects lots of things, and he sometimes talks about himself as having collected faculty,” Eisgruber said, referring to Dobkin’s penchant for collecting everyday objects, which was featured in a University exhibition. “The principal legacy is the set of people that are here on this campus, that have either been recruited, which is visible, and retained, which is pretty much invisible, during David’s time on this faculty.”

Eisgruber noted that other policies that Dobkin has put in place include a successful retirement plan, more family-friendly policies and new initiatives around diversity.

Dobkin could not be reached for comment Monday. He’s out of the office until Feb. 11, according to an automated email response. At Monday’s faculty meeting, Eisgruber said that Dobkin was currently in the Virgin Islands.

He plans to take a sabbatical for a year after the end of his term on June 30 and will return to his position as the Phillip Y. Goldman ’86 Professor in Computer Science at the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

The search committee for the new dean of the faculty will be headed by Leora Batnitzky, the chair of the Department of Religion. The other faculty members serving on the committee are chemistry professor Robert Cava; Wilson School professor Christina Davis; mathematics professor Weinan E; associate classics professor Brooke Holmes; history department chair William Jordan; electrical engineering professor Antoine Kahn; and chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering James Smith.

The search committee will look for a candidate who can help increase the diversity of the University’s faculty, Eisgruber explained. Eisgruber noted that a joint trustee-faculty committee last year identified increased diversity as a major need for the University and added that he is fully committed to pursuing that objective.

University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua explained that the University expects Dobkin’s successor to take office by July 1 of this year, in time for the start of the next academic year, and that there would be no need for an interim dean of the faculty while the search committee makes its selection.

Eisgruber added that Dobkin was always someone he could turn to for advice throughout his term as dean of the faculty.

“One of the things I would always count on David for was wise advice about how best to deal with a problem in ways that treated everybody respectfully and appropriately, that was true to the sensitivities of the faculty,” Eisgruber said. “Because David knew people so well, it was always possible to turn to him and say, ‘David, here’s a tough question. I have to find a constructive way to talk to people about this. Can you give me some advice about how to present this issue, so people don’t become defensive and we can have a good conversation?’ David was always forthcoming with his advice and virtually always right.”

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