By The Graduate Press Editorial Board
It was announced via email on Monday that the Foundation Board of the Graduate Institute has “unanimously and enthusiastically approved the renewal” of Marie-Laure Salles’ mandate as president of the Institute for the period 2024-2028.
Director Salles was first appointed to lead the Institute in 2020 and officially started in the role on the September 1st of that year. Director Salles’ appointment marked a historic moment at the Institute, as she became the first female director since its inception in 1927. The renewal of her mandate now assures she will be at the helm of the Institute for the 100th anniversary in 2027.
Throughout the first term of her tenure, Director Salles found success in various areas of the Institute. Notably, with the help of various other colleagues at the Institute, she helped launch the Masters in International and Development Studies (MINT) program with the first cohort entering the Institute in the Fall of 2022. The MINT program combined the MDev and MIA Masters programs. Furthermore, Director Salles has aimed to connect with students and their needs through various formal and informal measures. In October 2022, as a response to students Director Salles introduced the Institute’s Code of Conduct for faculty in students and throughout the last few months, the director has held various coffee chats to get to know students at the Institute.
Despite the unanimous and enthusiastic renewal of Director Salles’ mandate by the Foundation Board, Director Salles’ tenure has been marked with some controversy among the student body. A common critique of the Director Salles has been that her focus has been on the “Mcdonalidisation” of the Institute and creating a more profitable business model, instead of improving the experience of students across various levels and courses at the Institute.
Over the last few years, notable pushback against the director’s positions include the ongoing dispute between PhD student Teaching Assistants, which is ongoing. In addition, the Stop Silencing Students movement raised concerns about Institute faculty suppressing students that have experienced sexual harassment. In December 2021, there was tension over the director’s decision to redesign the Institute’s logo at a somewhat large cost of 60,000 CHF amid existing budgetary concerns. Lastly, more recently, the adoption of the Israeli-based project management software Monday.com across the Institute’s administration and the MINT ARP project caused outrage by students and faculty as this went against the explicit wishes of the GISA board and the student approved BDS policy.
There is no doubt that Director Salles has faced both highs and lows in her first term as director of the Geneva Graduate Institute. While she successfully introduced the MINT program that has shown promise with its first cohort in 2022, she has been met with backlash for many of her other decisions throughout the last four years. It remains to be seen whether or not her second term will follow a similar trajectory.
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