Speaking to the Faculty Council, a group of 18 professors who advise the dean, Kirby said that since 1999 the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has grown by 52 professors.
In a Faculty of 609 members, the increase of 12 percent bodes well for Kirby’s goal to grow the Faculty 10 percent in 10 years.
Kirby and University President Lawrence H. Summers made increasing the size of the faculty a top priority last year, wooing several high profile professors such as psychologist Stephen Pinker and author Louis Menand.
To date, the raw number of new hires has not broken any records—22 last year as compared with 23 and 24 in the previous two. But with three cases outstanding, the yield could reach 76 percent, which is among the highest offer acceptance rates to date.
Yesterday the Council discussed not only raw numbers, but also hiring trends.
A presentation by Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Vincent Tompkins and Associate Dean for Faculty Development Laura G. Fisher showed that while the number of minority faculty has increased, the number of women in the junior ranks seems to be slipping.
The proportion of senior women appointments, however, remained high. Nine of the 22 new professors are women.
Kirby, who could not be reached for comment, has been a strong advocate for tenuring more women and listed increasing the number of female professors as a major goal in his first annual Letter to the Faculty last February.
Also discussed was the fact that seven percent of the Faculty is now older than 70. A mere 10 years ago, the number was at zero.
Clowes Professor of Science Robert P. Kirshner ’70, a former Faculty Council member, said that the trend was logical after the rule forcing professors to retire at 60 was overturned a few years ago.
“Harvard professors are well paid and the job does not require a lot of heavy lifting,” he said.
Kirshner warned, however, that the University must keep its ranks fresh.
“Suppose the faculty seemed more like your grandfathers than your mothers and fathers,” he said. “There is a risk that the cultural gap between students and faculty is going to be wider and that’s not good.”
Council members also had the opportunity to scrutinize the tenure process itself as they discussed the preliminary recommendations of a committee currently reviewing appointment procedures.
Kirby appointed the committee last fall and asked its members to report back to him in the spring.