Harvard's great tenure battle is entering a new and more active stage. Yesterday morning the matter was first reported by metropolitan daily newspapers (hitherto Time has been the only publication to touch it), and it is certain that the coming salvos of publicity will force the Administration to play a different sort of game. Moreover, there has been intensified action on a number of University fronts; although none of the recently issued statements alters one whit the positions which have been previously taken.
Point for point, the arguments of Dean Ferguson and the Alumni are incontrovertible. But when they have been stated, they have proven absolutely nothing, because they are concerned with entirely different matters than are the Administration critics. They are looking at the College as a whole taken over a long period of time. From this point of view, it is possible to construct a neat set of figures which shows that the budget has declined and consequently has necessitated a drastic climination of men in the lower ranks; and which--by hook or crook--also shows that the total number of men in the middle group will not be reduced in the process.
The opponents of the Administration can simply ignore these figures, because they are looking at the problem from the point of view of a few departments taken at the present moment. Even if the College as a whole will have enough middle-groupers at some time in the blushing future, that does not help English, Government, or Biology now. The recent dismissals have hog-tied and rolled these departments. And the fact remains that--regardless of figures--this blow to education could have been avoided by a measure of flexibility in the appointment of associate professors and a willingness to appoint associates in some cases where predictable vacancies in the full professor rank are not ahead. The blow can still be avoided by acceptance of this policy coupled with some judicious reappointments.
Flexibility is and must be the keynote of the demands of Administration opponents. They are not slaves to figures as is the Administration for they realize that figures obliterate all human and educational values. They are not demanding a certain fixed number of additional "frozen" associates. Rather they are asking that the sole criteria for permanence on Harvard's teaching staff be teaching needs and the capabilities of the men involved. Such a request may sound wildly impossible in view of fixed and unalterable budgetary limitations. But the answer--the panacea--is flexibility in the system of appointment to the rank of associate professor.