President Neil L. Rudenstine's denial of tenure to Assistant Professor of Government Bonnie Honig is "incomprehensible given [his] publicly stated commitment to equality for women," said 15 female faculty in a letter sent to Rudenstine April 30 and obtained yesterday by The Crimson.
Associate Dean for Affirmative Action Marjorie Garber also expressed "deep dismay" and urged Rudenstine to reverse his decision, according to another letter which was sent last week to the 15 faculty members and obtained by The Crimson yesterday as well.
University Director of Public Affairs Alex Huppe said last night that Rudenstine composed a response to the faculty's letter, but Huppe refused to release it. Though Huppe said that the letter was hand-delivered last week, at least two signatories had not yet received Rudenstine's response, sources said last night.
Rudenstine was unavailable for comment last night, Huppe said.
In their letter, the faculty members criticized the administration's failure to tenure an "excellent" scholar and questioned Rudenstine's commitment to diversity for women.
"Your decision to refuse Honig tenure has been greeted with shock and disbelief across the University and beyond," the letter said.
Some of the luminaries who signed the letter include Professor of Government Seyla Benhabib Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Alice A. Jardine; Professor of Public Policy Jane J. Mansbridge; Professor of Law Martha Minow; Professor of Government and of Sociology Theda Skocpol; and C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Women's Studies Susan R. Suleiman.
In her brief response to the faculty members, Garber said she supported the "strong letter."
Garber could not be reached for comment last night.
Several signatories expressed concern over the public release of the letter.
"A letter that goes quietly to the president may accomplish something, but something that becomes a public controversy might not," one of the signatories said last night.
Since Honig was denied tenure, a flurry of letters has been circulated by her friends and colleagues at Harvard and beyond.
Government graduate students recently sent a letter echoing the senior faculty members' message, and according to several sources, approximately 12 untenured faculty in the government department also sent a letter to Rudenstine expressing their dismay.
The junior faculty's letter stressed the detrimental effects the decision will have on the recruitment and retention of untenured faculty and graduate students.
Additional accusations have circulated about procedural improprieties in the tenure deliberations for Honig and Associate Professor of Government Peter Berkowitz, who was also recently denied tenure.
University officials have consistently refused to comment on both decisions, citing a long-standing tradition of confidentiality in Harvard's tenure process.
They have, however, suggested that the controversy has been exacerbated by the one-sidedness of the information that has been released