Nemat “Minouche” Shafik, a famed economist who currently serves as the president of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), just nabbed the top spot at Columbia University — New York City’s resident Ivy League institution.
Shafik will take office commencing on July 1, 2023, marking the first time a woman has led Columbia since its original inception in 1754. The current president is Lee Bollinger, who has held the post since 2002.
Columbia’s Board of Trustees confirmed the announcement earlier today, with board chair Jonathan Lavine dubbing Shafik “the perfect candidate: a brilliant and able global leader, a community builder, and a preeminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it.”
Shafik’s résumé includes a stint as the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England (where she managed a balance sheet totaling more than £500 billion), the title of youngest-ever Vice President at the World Bank at age 36, and a slew of high-powered advisory roles.
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It’s no secret that the higher education community is in the midst of uncertain times, as the Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action looms, and rankings, exorbitant fees and more are up for debate. Clearly, Columbia hopes she will help seamlessly navigate the establishment into a new era, with Lavine noting, “While her accomplishments are impressive, what set Minouche apart as a candidate was her unshakable confidence in the vital role institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world’s most complex problems. Minouche challenges institutions and individuals to rethink how we can better support each other to address inequities and build thriving societies. At Columbia, this call to action will not only enrich our educational and research mission but also enhance our role as a neighbor and civic partner.”
With Shafik’s arrival, Columbia joins the ranks of universities including Dartmouth, M.I.T., Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, who have also recently appointed women presidents.
This isn’t the only recent headline coming out of Morningside Heights. Earlier this month, Bollinger announced Hillary Clinton was picking up extra work as a professor of practice at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and presidential fellow at Columbia World Projects (CWP).
The World Bank and the IMF don’t have a great reputation, except for enforcing unhelpful neo-liberal policies. That Columbia University’s new president is a woman doesn’t change any of this.
What does Columbia’s resident Nobel Prize in Economics winner have to say about this appointment?
I was thinking the same thing about someone having The World Bank and IMF on his or her resume. Both are often reported to be (see The Economist and Forbes, NY Times and The Wall Street Journal) apologists for first and second world countries’ economic and financial profit-at-all-costs policies that often hurt and hinder the economic growth of third world countries. Concern over home country, i.e. U.S. dollar, and European currency highs and lows as compared to and contrasted with the Japanese yen, British pound, and Chinese yuan are upper most in almost everything the IMF and World Bank do and say. Maintaining the status quo far outweighs proactive, creative approaches to age- old global fiscal problems. Shafik’s “stint” may be more window-dressing than substantive and, unfortunately, neither adds nor subtracts from her expertise and future success as an American university president. No doubt Hillary Clinton, being mentioned in the same breath, may have been a one-time candidate for the position and her professorship, it would not surprise me, is a decent consolation prize.
This woman is an uber capitalist. LSE was founded on the principles of Fabian socialism (i.e. movement toward democratic socialism via reform not revolution) but that connection is quite loose now. But hey, what is Columbia and in fact all the othe Ivies other than a machine to maintain the power of the wealthy (yeah, a few bones to “diversity”, and to the liberal arts)? Bollinger has excelled at this, and so will his successor. The public is supporting this through the tax exemptions provided to donors and through the university’s exemption from all property tax. The public universities do infinitely more in the public interest, educating and providing opportunities to a much broader population. The tragedy is that state legislatures, including, no especially, New York State, have cut funding to those schools and tuition is much higher than it should be. (Not sour grapes; my family are almost all graduates of Columbia, but not recent).
Ummm, congratulations to the first female president of Columbia?