A New Day at Stanford

The Board of Trustees made an excellent decision in selecting GSB dean Jonathan Levin as the University’s 13th president.

A New Day at Stanford

For the better part of a year, Stanford has searched for a new president following the public, scandal-ridden resignation of Marc Tessier-Lavigne. While a twenty-member Presidential Search Committee looked for his replacement, the former dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, Richard Saller, served as interim president. We thank President Saller—who recently sat down for a lengthy interview with the Review—for his stability and sanity during a year of great upheaval. But as this tumult subsides, we are excited that 51-year-old Jonathan Levin, current dean of the Graduate School of Business has been named Stanford’s 13th president

Among many faculty members, Hoover fellows, and us at the Review, Levin was a highly anticipated candidate for the Stanford presidency. He has demonstrated exceptional leadership capacity, support for free speech, and a keen ability to balance academic success with administrative responsibilities. Unlike recent administrative picks at top universities, Levin was clearly chosen on the merits of his experience and capabilities, not his racial or sexual identity. For the past eight years, Levin has led Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. And in each of the five most recent years, Stanford has ranked number one on Bloomberg’s list of the best business schools based on surveys of students, alumni, and employers.

Most importantly, Jonathan Levin has seen the inner workings of Stanford from every angle: as a student, a professor, and an administrator. He completed his undergraduate education at Stanford in 1994 with degrees in both English and Mathematics. Having a foot in both the humanities and quantitative subjects will ensure that Levin sees Stanford as more than a mere laboratory. He later taught in the Department of Economics, of which he became the chair in 2011. Then in 2016, Levin assumed his current role as head of the Graduate School of Business. He has experienced firsthand the frustrations of Stanford students, the bureaucracy dealt with by faculty, and the bloat that plagues our administration. Professor Jennifer Aaker, a member of the Presidential Search Committee, even claims that Levin is “pro-fun.”

As an academic, Levin is no slouch. Unlike Harvard and Stanford’s prior presidents who have a history of doctored research, Levin has excelled in his field without taking shortcuts, earning the John Bates Clark medal in 2011. The Clark medal is given to the most promising economist under the age of forty and is widely regarded as one of the field’s most prestigious awards, second only to the Nobel Prize in Economics.

He has also defended academic liberties in his leadership of the GSB. In November of 2022, Levin allowed the GSB’s Classical Liberalism Initiative to sponsor the controversial Academic Freedom Conference. On free speech, he stated, “We’re trying to create a collision of ideas that gives rise to research and to learning, and we give faculty and students extraordinary freedom to that end to pursue that goal.” Based on his actions, Levin’s presidency promises a return to free expression and institutional neutrality in an era when the climate at universities is increasingly restrictive. 

In a time where antisemitism on college campuses has increased, we must also note that Levin is of Jewish heritage. His appointment is a sign that Stanford will refrain from the mistakes schools like Harvard, UPenn, and MIT made after the October 7th terrorist attack on Israel.

When Jonathan Levin becomes president this August, his tenure will mark the beginning of a new day at Stanford. As the world is transformed by artificial intelligence developed here on campus, and as other elite universities are hollowed out by extremist ideology, Stanford has the opportunity to become the unrivaled leader in higher education globally. The 21st century may well be the “Stanford Century” if Levin and other campus leaders work to make it so.

The Stanford Review is pleased that the Board of Trustees has selected Jonathan Levin to be our 13th president. We wish President Levin the best of luck in the arduous and exciting journey ahead.

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