J-School Dean Search Takes U-Turn

It looks like the search for a new leader to take the reins from Orville Schell at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism may soon draw to a close. In a startling turn of events, Cal Provost George Breslauer is now wooing Dianne Lynch, who withdrew her candidacy in mid-March after paying a visit to the school. As search committee chair AnnaLee Saxenian informed the school community via e-mail, Lynch indicated that she’d “found the program, the people, and the students as amazing and exceptional as I expected I would.” Yet, Saxenian concluded, “I have spoken with her at length, and this is her final decision.”

So it came as a surprise to many when Breslauer sent an e-mail to J-school faculty, staff, and students Sunday: “I am in active discussion with Diane Lynch about the deanship of GSJ and am hopeful that these discussions will be successful. It may be a few weeks before I will know the results,” he wrote.
Lynch, who is dean of Ithaca’s Roy H. Park School of Communications, was the clear frontrunner following her visit. That’s partly because her impressive New Media cred seemed well aligned with the school’s rather urgent need to get up to speed in that area, and partly because the faculty was so sharply divided under Schell that many insiders believed only an outsider would be able to heal the rift — that’s according to a J-school faculty member who asked to remain anonymous.

Still, after Lynch bailed out, professor Neil Henry, an author and former Washington Post reporter, took the lead, garnering substantial support from the alumni board and a somewhat worn-down faculty. With Lynch out of the running, it appeared the only option was to either award him the job or reopen the search.

Which is why Breslauer’s e-mail was a below-the-belt blow to Henry and his supporters, and simply a surprise to those who’d considered Lynch off limits. Even more confounding was this question: Why would the provost e-mail hundreds of people unless Lynch was certain to be named dean?

Neither Lynch nor Breslauer would confirm her appointment. “It is true that the provost called me and we did have a conversation,” Lynch responded in an e-mail last night. “That’s all there is to tell at this point.” Contacted by e-mail today, Breslauer simply stated: “I am pleased that Dianne Lynch is reconsidering her earlier decision.”

A followup e-mail to Lynch today, however, prompted an instant reply from her account indicating that she would be out of the office until Monday. A little jaunt to Berkeley, perhaps?

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