The expansion of the faculty naturally bodes well for the student-faculty ratio. A student-faculty ratio is no mere number, but an expression of the intellectual life of the institution. Regardless of the advantages of large lecture courses taught by distinguished professors, the steadily decreasing ratio gives each student the opportunity to meet professors, cultivate deeper relationships with them and find the academic niche that he or she finds most inspiring. The more professors there are, the more likely a student is to find a professor whom he or she believes to have profound insights, meaningful suggestions and pertinent methods. College is a life-altering event, and students deserve to be driven by the kind of enthusiasm for knowledge that comes from significant personal relationships with faculty as they form their worldviews.
Of course, even as a mere number the student-faculty ratio has its uses. The number is not only symbolic of an attitude towards teaching. It is also a significant indicator that potential applicants use to gauge the educational atmosphere of the country’s top schools as they shop for an alma mater. That a decreasing ratio will make Harvard more competitive with its peer institutions is not to be scoffed at.
As this hiring continues, it is also important that FAS harmonize with Harvard’s vision of its future. Harvard could undoubtedly hire many more female professors without the slightest compromise in the quality of the hires, and, indeed, it plans to do so. The hiring of younger faculty, scholars whose most productive days still lie ahead of them, can only add to the vivacity and brilliance of academic life. We appreciate that Harvard can and does attract the eminences grises of various fields, but we also wish that FAS would nab the enterprising youngsters who are, with flair and vigor, forging completely new fields. The expansion of the Faculty gives Harvard the chance to have it both ways, attracting both the superstars and the rising stars into its substantial neck of the woods of academia.