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NU president gets mixed reviews

Honeymoon over? Since taking over as president at Northeastern University a little more than a year ago, Joseph Aoun has won praise for meeting regularly with students and community members and for an open, informal personal style.

But recently that good will has turned into grumbling among some faculty members, who contend that Aoun is running the university in a heavy-handed manner and making major policy changes without sufficiently consulting them.

The Faculty Senate discussed their grievances in a private executive session earlier this month. Faculty leaders said they were concerned that Aoun had adopted a corporate-style mentality that runs afoul of the academic culture.

"Northeastern has a traditional emphasis on shared responsibility, and right now there's not the same level of consultation," said Carol Glod, chairwoman of the Faculty Senate Agenda Committee.

Glod, a nursing professor, said tenured faculty members were worried that administrators are not heeding their opinions about promotions and budgets. But other university officials downplayed the unrest as a "tempest in a teapot."

Administrators acknowledge that in their rush to improve the university, they may have stepped on some toes. In response to faculty criticism, they have shelved new guidelines on outside tenure recommendations.

The Faculty Senate meets again Wednesday.

First Moves: Drew Faust, Harvard's new president, appears to be ruffling few feathers with her first major administrative appointments.

Among the changes: Michael Smith, a computer science and electrical engineering professor and former associate dean, became dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, taking over from an acting dean. Historian Robert Darnton replaced Sidney Verba, who retired as university library director. Moshen Mostafavi, Cornell University's architectural dean, leads the design school starting in January, replacing Alan Altshuler. Jeff Flier is the new medical school dean, replacing Joe Martin.

"So far, so good," said professor Judith Ryan, a frequent critic of past president Lawrence H. Summers.

College Search: How do you tell the difference between five top colleges that admit stellar students and cost about the same? Throw those college guides aside.

Here are some tips gleaned from a recent recruitment meeting hosted by Duke, Penn, Harvard, Georgetown, and Stanford at a Worcester hotel.

Harvard: A freshman dining hall out of a Harry Potter novel. "This is our equivalent of Hogwarts," quipped Bill Fitzsimmons, admissions and financial aid dean.

Penn: Think Founding Father. "Ben Franklin was a real pragmatist. His vision became Penn," said Eric Kaplan, interim dean of admissions.

Stanford: It's warm here. "One thing about it, it looks exactly the same 365 days a year. No snow," said Dan Warner, the assistant admissions dean, as he pointed to a photo of Palm Drive.

Duke: "Here are 1,700 reasons to come to Duke University," said Sue Coon, the senior assistant director of undergraduate admissions, as she narrated a slide of freshmen forming the letters Duke at orientation. Another plus: You camp out for basketball tickets.

Georgetown: It snows here - some. And, said admissions dean Charles Deacon, "A nice thing is our students don't have to camp out for our tickets."

Art That Floors: Step gingerly, then take a long look at the first floor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's new physics center. The array of multicolored squares is a work of art by the late Sol LeWitt.

MIT will dedicate the $49.5 million four-story building on Friday, and hold a second dedication solely in honor of the floor on Oct. 19. The floor mesmerizes you from the start, as you try to discern whether the shapes in each square are letters.

The design fits a physics building, said Patricia Fuller, MIT's public art curator. "It's kind of like a puzzle," she said. But those shapes are not letters. "They're not meant to represent anything but abstracts, forms, and colors," she said.

Campus Insider runs on alternate Sundays with Ask the Teacher, an advice column. To submit tips to Campus Insider, e-mail Linda Wertheimer at and Peter Schworm at

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