The IAS’s directorship today resembles the Presidency from Kennedy to Carter—a series of one-termers. Three directors have come and gone in not 13 years, with directors having left the job, dropped the job, or been driven from the job. Now with Marvin Goldberger’s departure without finishing even his first five-year appointment (whether he was fired or just quit is not at issue), we have to ask, what of the future?

The truth is, if Einstein hadn’t spent his declining years at IAS, the Institute would hardly enjoy the high visibility that even today, three decades after Einstein’s death, draws attention to what goes on in this sleepy hollow in the western corner of Princeton. So what is to be done to regain the preeminence that the Institute once rightly claimed for itself?

IAS should be the nation’s premier research institute and a model for all others; today, in most fields, it simply is not. IAS is truly distinguished in math, astrophysics, and particle physics; not only because of the prominence of some of its permanent faculty in those areas, but also because of the constant infusion of new energy in the form of post-docs and scholars who come to join in projects of collaborative research.

Alas, the social sciences and the historical school scarcely register in the American academy. Their permanent professors are not prominent, though they publish; they do not conduct collaborative research projects with generations of IAS members, though they may chat with them from day to day; and they do not attract platoons of post-docs whom they absorb into ongoing and shared research. This permanent faculty does not teach students; does not engage with younger colleagues; does not share work with and learn from senior colleagues as they come from year to year; and in general lives a very insulated and—consequently—intellectually flaccid life.

Clearly, actions need to be taken to improve the place financially, politically, socially, and intellectually. First, IAS needs to reform the board of directors so that the nonacademic members contribute funds to IAS in a substantial way, as part of a major drive for new capital; the policy of NYU’s board, “Give, get, or get out,” worked wonders in getting rid of the timeservers and bringing in activists with a commitment to the institution. I would expect each member of the board to give or get IAS one million dollars a year at a minimum, or to leave; today the board is dead weight.

Second, IAS should renew its relationship with the National Endowment for the Humanities. When last December IAS told the NEH to take its money and shove it, throwing away three-quarters of a million dollars on the spurious claim of defending academic freedom (see Cultural Revolutions, June 1990), it was seen in Washington as making a claim on entitlements that the NEH cannot accord to any institution. A long-term relationship with a major funding agency in the humanities was jeopardized, and many other Washington funding agencies saw IAS in a less-than-flattering light.

Third, IAS must recruit women and blacks. The IAS has to give serious thought to recruiting qualified women for its mathematics and natural science schools, which at this time have disproportionately few women. The mostly-male and lily-white character of the Institute also contradicts the character of American intellectual life, enriched as it is by the participation of women and blacks as much as by European- and Asian-Americans. You don’t need affirmative action or quotas to correct this.

Fourth, IAS should bring in outsiders. I would set up advisory councils, made up of outside scholars of the highest standing, to organize (on the model of the NEH summer seminars for college teachers) annual seminars, led by outsiders, chosen competitively, with each full-year seminar director in charge of attracting a dozen colleagues to share in a collaborative project. The selection of the seminar professors, invited for one or two or even three years, depending on the character of the research project, would be made by panels of outside experts, from which all locals would be excluded; such panels would insure that local prejudice or intrigue play no role. The alternative is to close the schools of history and of social science entirely, by not replacing the existing professors as they retire, and by encouraging those among them who can find other employment to do so.

Fifth, IAS needs to cut out insiders. I would loosen the ties to Princeton University, which are currently incestuous. The Institute’s relationships to other universities should be defined by the scholarly excellence and even eminence of those outsiders brought to IAS, not by the school ties those outsiders wear.

So long as the IAS continues to congratulate itself on its distinguished past, it will continue its long-term decline into mediocrity and irrelevance: an institute for advanced sinecures, an institution for advanced salaries.