Departments normally promote or dismiss junior faculty in the privacy of their offices, but a series of History Department decisions made public this week brought questions about the process, and even some grievances over it, to light.
Last semester the department decided not to promote assistant professors Mangol Bayat, David E. Kaiser '69, Mary F. Nolan, and Thomas Philipp to associate professorships and not to extend their contracts.
The decisions on the four assistant professors has impelled members of the department to question the criteria for promotion and to discuss how the departures will affect the department's curriculum and its affirmative action program.
Bayat said yesterday the History Department's criteria are "inflated." Wallace T. MacCaffrey, department chairman, said yesterday the criterion for promotion to associate professor at Harvard is "to be tenurable at a major American university."
MacCaffrey also cited age as a factor, stating that the four assistant professors are young and the department prefers those "older and more experienced."
"There is no ultimate litmus paper" for judging a candidate, but a panel of senior faculty does review each candidate and evaluate his scholarship and teaching ability, MacCaffrey said.
MacCaffrey admitted that the present method the senior faculty use to judge teaching is "primitive at best" but that he is unsure of "how to go about doing a better job."
The department's policy is to send senior faculty to visit classes taught by a professor up for promotion, but in practice the number of visits varies greatly from case to case, MacCaffrey said. He added that the policy should be more consistent next year.
Senior History faculty also said the four departures will hurt the department's curriculum. Patrice L.R. Higonnet, professor of History, called the lack of promotions "somewhat irresponsible," since it would leave gaps in the curriculum other professors could not immediately fill. MacCaffrey said the department would have no trouble filling most of the vacancies.
Bayat took issue with MacCaffrey's contention that there are no women qualified for the position of associate professor. "I'm stung. It's so humiliating--Molly and I are highly qualified on the merits of scholarship," she said.
MacCaffrey said he is concerned that the loss of Nolan and Bayat will leave the department with no women faculty members, but he added that the department is "actively looking but not recruiting for qualified women candidates."
The History Department takes "more than a common interest in women candidates because we would like to appoint women," but to appoint to a woman on the basis of sex would create "second class citizens," MacCaffrey added.
All four candidates complained the department did not inform them of the procedures and criteria on which they were judged.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion in the History Department about the criteria and procedures and that is surely something that could be remedied,' Phyllis Keller, associate dean of the Faculty for academic planning and equal employment opportunity officer, said yesterday.