Ann Pellegrini's ('86) stay at Harvard was short and sweet. Despite positive recollections of her two years as a junior faculty member in the English department and acting director of women's studies, the gender studies specialist left the university for an associate professorship at Barnard.
"Harvard has a horrible record of tenuring junior faculty, and the English department has never tenured a junior woman," Pellegrini says. "And I thought given the work I do, I wasn't the kind of woman they would want to start with."
"She made a decision to get going while the going was good," says Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Bradley S. Epps.
Clearly, Harvard's traditional unwillingness to grant tenure to its junior faculty affects men and women alike. But Pellegrini says her status as a woman specializing in interdisciplinary research made the prospect of internal promotion at Harvard even more remote.
Had Pellegrini's research been in the hard sciences, her departure would have undoubtedly been seen as a casualty of a culture of discrimination against women in the field.
Just last week, MIT hosted its second conference on increasing women's participation at the highest levels of mathematics and the hard sciences, including representatives from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, which drew national attention.
But as an English professor interested in feminist and cultural theory, her loss was not quite so easy to label.
Female faculty in the humanities say that the obstacles they face rarely reek of conscious discrimination.
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