TCD: the next generation
So is the election in Trinity College Dublin of the next Provost an advertisement for, or a warning against, such a process? Probably a bit of both. The campaign was conducted by the candidates with a degree of energy, though as I suggested a day or so ago, the election of Paddy Prendergast tells us that the new social and online media are not influential in TCD. Also, winner and losers conducted themselves with some dignity at the outcome, and it is unlikely that any fences will need to be mended.
On the other hand, the process did not attract (as Trinity should have done) candidates who are really big players in the international academic world. A couple of years ago, for example, St Andrews University in Scotland (which is perhaps broadly comparable to TCD) appointed a key researcher and academic leader from Harvard University to be its new Principal (interestingly, an Irishwoman by birth). No field of this kind emerged for Trinity College. And of the two external candidates who participated, one felt he had to withdraw because success was impossible, and the other recorded the fewest votes on the day.
I am sure that Paddy Prendergast will be a successful Provost, but his election breaks no molds. TCD declined to elect its first woman Provost (though Jane Ohlmeyer performed very well, coming second in the poll).
Standing outside the College it is probably easy to under-estimate the feeling of satisfaction that surely many TCD staff now feel, and it is not my intention to suggest that Trinity did badly. Indeed, I wish Paddy Prendergast both success and happiness in the role, and I hope the College will go from strength to strength. Its success is important for the whole Irish higher education sector.
I also wish John Hegarty every happiness as he moves into the final phase of his term of office as Provost.