Drew Gilpin Faust’s rise to the Harvard presidency has come under fire from the National Association of Scholars (NAS), which expressed concern this week over the Radcliffe dean’s “strong feminist bent” and the manner in which she would make personnel decisions.
Stephen H. Balch, president and founder of the Washington-based group, said that he feared that Faust would push to use gender and perhaps racial criteria in hiring and tenure decisions.
“The greatest worry”, Balch said in a statement, “is that as president, Faust will further ratchet up the pressure on Harvard’s great scientific research centers to subordinate personnel decisions to the needs of social engineering.”
In response, University spokesman John D. Longbrake called Faust “an exceptional scholar and leader” and an “inspired choice for president as evidenced by the universal outpouring of support she’s had since the announcement.” Longbrake would not comment directly on the concerns voiced by NAS.
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Theda Skocpol, however, dismissed the concerns of NAS, saying “there will be no artificial quotas and no barriers” at Harvard.
“Under President Faust, excellence in teaching and research will the be watchword,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Balch said that he believed Faust was chosen in part as a product of the post-Lawrence H. Summers environment. The former Harvard president, who was forced to resign from his post last February, sparked an outcry in 2005 when he proposed that “issues of intrinsic aptitude” might be one factor explaining the underrepresentation of women in the sciences.
The uproar surrounding Summers’ departure and Faust’s scholarly interests in the historical role of women and gender, Balch said on Wednesday, might mean that Faust would consider gender in deciding who to hire and promote.
Balch added that he hopes the fears “will not materialize,” but that Harvard is “in for a period of watchful waiting.”
Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53—one of the three current and former Harvard professors who sit on the NAS board—would not say if he agreed with Balch’s apprehensions about Faust, but he added that he hopes she will put Balch’s fears to rest.
“I would like to congratulate Drew Faust, whom I know, with whom I am on friendly terms,” Mansfield wrote in an e-mail. “All of us wish that she will conduct her presidency so as to make Steve Balch’s misgivings inapplicable.”
Winthrop Professor of History Stephan Thernstrom, who sits on the NAS board, declined to comment. Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus Edward O. Wilson, another NAS board member, did not respond to a request for comment.
None of the three professors viewed the statement before it was released, according to Balch.
Balch’s organization has itself come under attack by the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way, which has said it was created to bring together “right-wing faculty against ‘politically correct’ multicultural education and affirmative action policies in college admissions and faculty hiring.”
—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at email@example.com.