Sociology Opposes Tenure for Skocpol
Senior members of the Sociology Department voted last week not to recommend Theda R. Skocpol, associate professor of Sociology, for a tenured professorship.
Departmental sources said yesterday disagreement with Skocpol's academic views, personality differences and a feeling that she has not established herself in the field by Harvard standards, were among the reasons for the decision.
"At a personal level, I am deeply hurt by this unnecessary rejection, coming when the department has several vacancies to fill," Skocpol said yesterday, declining further comment on the decision.
Skocpol, who is currently on a one-year leave, said she is considering tenure offers from four universities and added that she will not return to Harvard even though her appointment extends through the 1981-82 academic year.
The fact that Skocpol is a woman had nothing to do with the decision to deny her tenure, several departmental sources--both those who supported and opposed recommending her for tenure--said. The Sociology Department includes no tenured women faculty members, and Skocpol is the only female associate professor of Sociology.
Last summer, Skocpol received the American Sociological Association Award for distinguished contributions to sociology--the highest award in the field--and the C. Wright Mills Award from the U.S. Association of Sociology for her book, "States and Social Revolutions," published last year.
All 11 full-time tenured professors in the department took part in the decision. The vote--which departments usually keep secret--was five in favor, five against and one abstention, sources in the department said.
Professors opposing the recommendation were Brian J.L. Berry, Williams Professor of City and Regional Planning; James A. Davis, chairman of the Sociology Department; Nathan Glazer, professor of Education and Social Structure; and Harrison C. White, professor of Sociology, sources in the department said.
Berry, Davis and Glazer yesterday declined to confirm their votes or to comment on the decision. White was unavailable for comment.
Supporters of Skocpol who voted in the decision included Daniel Bell, professor of Sociology; Orlando Patterson, professor of Sociology; Alessandro, Pizzorno, Krupp Foundation Professor of Sociology; and Lee Rainwater, professor of Sociology.
Bell and Patterson yesterday confirmed their votes in Skocpol's favor. Pizzorno and Rainwater were unavailable for comment.
George C. Homans '33, professor of Sociology, said yesterday he supported Skocpol but did not participate in the voting process because he is semi-retired.
William Alonso '54, Saltonstall Professor of Population Policy, and Ezra F. Vogel, professor of Sociology, yesterday declined to say which way they voted. Philip J. Stone, professor of Social Relations, was unavailable for comment.
"I'm very unhappy about the results. I think she's a first-rate candidate. I think we've made a terrible mistake," Patterson said yesterday, adding, "She's an absolutely first-rate teacher."
Homans said yesterday the refusal to grant Skocpol tenure may lead to a narrowing of focus in the department. "I think the danger is that sociology will narrow down to a mathematical and statistical business," Homans said.
"I'm a great believer that sociology should properly include comparative sociological and historical studies," he added. Skocpol is known for her comparative work, specializing in the study of revolutionary movements.
Addressing arguments that Skocpol is too inexperienced, Homans said, "In the past we've tried to get more older people who were further along in their careers, but of the younger people, I've always thought Theda was by far the best."
The overwhelming majority of sociology graduate students last month supported a resolution calling on the department to recommend Skocpol for tenure, Peter Bearman, Sociology graduate student coordinator, said yesterday.
"I think they made a bad decision because the department is very troubled right now. Theda is a well respected scholar, and the department can't afford to give up the most outstanding young scholar in hopes of getting someone else," Bearman said.
Skocpol said she is considering tenure offers from the University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of North Carolina.
"Her main attraction is that she has gained a national reputation mainly through her recent book--she's considered an outstanding person in the field," N. Krishnan Namboodir, chairman of the sociology department at the University of North Carolina, said yesterday.
A number of sociologists yesterday cited Skocpol's award-winning book as evidence of Skocpol's scholarly abilities. "The general reaction to her book was quite positive--she clearly has a pretty powerful reputation." Seymour M. Lipset, professor of political science at Stanford and a former dissertation adviser to Skocpol, said yesterday. "I must confess I'm a bit surprised that this happened," he added