Faculty Increases Tenure Yield

More women, junior Faculty to join senior ranks

With 21 offers of tenure accepted and 14 still outstanding, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is poised to welcome next fall one of the largest classes of senior professors in recent years.

In the first hiring season under the combined direction of University President Lawrence H. Summers and Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby, almost half of those who have accepted tenure so far are women. A larger-than-usual number Harvard’s junior professors also got offers, according to Summers.

“It has been a very good year indeed,” Kirby said. “Excluding pending offers, more than three-quarters of those offered senior positions have accepted.”

With 14 cases still pending, the number of senior appointments will most likely surpass the level of the past two years. Last year, 23 appointments were made and 24 the year before.

Some professors, such as MIT evolutionary psychologist Steven T. Pinker, gained national attention with their decisions to accept Harvard’s offer.

Other scholars, such as Associate Professor of Art and Architecture David J. Roxburgh and Assistant Professor of English Leah Price ’91, will gain their chairs more quietly, rising from within Harvard’s own ranks.

Summers cited such additions to the Faculty as among his major accomplishments of the year in an interview Tuesday. He added that this year’s hiring is an important step towards his administration’s goal of increasing the size of faculty by ten percent in ten years. Kirby has throughout the year reaffirmed this goal despite the fact that budgetary concerns have lead to a “soft freeze” on hiring in FAS.

“The Faculty this year was ten or 12 people larger than it had been in the previous year, so we’re in some sense ahead of schedule,” he said.

While the number of hires alone may set recent records, the nature of the appointments also mark progress towards Kirby’s goal of increasing the number of women faculty.

This year, nine of the 21 scholars who have accepted Harvard’s offer are women. Over the past few years, the number of new women senior faculty in each tenure class has ranged from three to 13.

Kirby wrote in his annual letter to the Faculty in February that “although the progress has been significant, the number and percentage of tenured women in our ranks is still far from optimal.”

During his term as chair of the history department, Kirby was known as a strong advocate for female professors, resulting in a doubling of the number in that department.

This year’s hiring also reflects Summers’ and Kirby’s goal of granting tenure to more faculty from within.

In the past two years, a total of 12 internal promotions have been made. While only three have been officially announced this year, once the final numbers are in, there will likely be several more.

Kirby said in an interview earlier this month that departments should hire the most outstanding scholars at the junior level and, through continual support, ensure that they remain the most attractive candidates in their field when they come up for tenure. Professors can spend no more than eight years in the associate and assistant ranks before their department must decide whether to endorse his promotion to a tenure track.

Faculty say that Kirby has been repeatedly expressed his commitment to supporting junior faculty.

“Whenever you have any conversation with him about junior promotions, it is clear it is an extremely high priority,” said Loeb Professor of Social Sciences David M. Cutler.

Kirby said in an interview this month that such a progression requires a commitment on the part of the Faculty and that some departments could do better.

“The departments which do it best treat their junior Faculty as full citizens of the department,” he said. “If you don’t treat them as part of your department, they won’t stay part of your department.”

Summers said that the trend of granting tenure to more faculty from within is partly responsible for this year’s impressive yield. With roots in the University and the Boston area, such professors are often more likely to accept Harvard’s offer.

“It’s almost certainly the case that assistant professors who are promoted are more likely to stay than people we recruit from the outside,” he said.Cutler said that granting tenure from within is not only a responsibility to junior faculty but a pragmatic way to increase the size of the Faculty.

“Since the plan is to expand, there is only so much hiring you can or want to do,” he said. “[You need] the best junior faculty you can get.”

Cutler said that this year’s tally reflects an enormous amount of work on the part of Kirby and the three academic deans.

Cutler, Fisher Professor of Natural History Andrew Knoll and Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures Maria Tatar currently hold these academic deanships. The deans, who each serve three-year terms, organize the ad hoc committees that advise Summers on all tenure cases. Cutler said that there are typically 30 to 35 ad hoc meetings per year.

Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature Judith L. Ryan, who has served as an academic dean in the past, said that the number of ad hocs has significantly increased over the past few years.

“This suggests hard work on the part of the University,” she said.

Cutler cites the hard work involved in organizing and deciding each tenure case as a reason to celebrate this year’s success.

“It is very pleasing,” he said. “It is a grueling process.”

—Staff writer Jessica E. Vascellaro can be reached at vascell@fas.harvard.edu.