Academics Level Criticism at Harvard Over Handling of Hauser Inquiry

Polina Bartik

In the wake of news that embattled psychology professor Marc D. Hauser will resign his tenured position at the University, a group of prominent academics are circulating a letter criticizing Harvard’s handling of the allegations leveled at Hauser.

The letter criticizes Harvard’s investigation into Hauser’s work and reflects a feeling in the academic community that Harvard did not properly handle the investigation and the resulting media frenzy. Among the signatories is MIT Linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky.

The Chronicle of Higher Education was the first to report news of the letter.

While universities usually keep internal investigations into a professor’s work confidential, Harvard responded to media scrutiny last August by releasing a summary of the findings of the three-year internal investigation, which found Hauser "solely responsible for eight counts of scientific misconduct."

The details of the investigation have remained confidential and have been tightly guarded by University administrators.

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Marc Hauser's Career at Harvard

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith noted that because Hauser received federal funding for his research, the committee in charge of the Harvard investigation turned over its findings to the Office of Research Integrity in accordance with federal policy.

On the heels of the investigation becoming public, Hauser took a one year leave of absence, went to his home on the Cape to work on a book, and remained silent on the issue.

But the lack of information about the case and a surprisingly drawn out federal investigation has raised questions within the academic community.

The average ORI investigation releases its findings in seven months, according to Ann Bradley, a spokesperson for the ORI. But the ORI investigation has now lasted for over a year, and the ORI has not released any information about the case, declining to even confirm that an investigation is ongoing.

Last February, the Psychology Department voted to bar Hauser from teaching for the 2011-2012 academic year. In an interview with The Crimson last May, Psychology Department Chair Susan E. Carey '64 said the department refrained from making a permanent decision because it was “waiting for the ORI to make its findings public.”

Despite a blistering internal investigation and a one-year teaching ban, many, like Carey, considered the ORI findings to be the final verdict on Hauser.

“Each of us has heard rumors, and each of us has our own opinions about what Hauser probably did or did not do,” Carey said in May. “But those opinions are really worth nothing. The due process goes through the Committee on Professional Conduct and ORI.”

As a result, many in the academic community were surprised that Hauser resigned before the conclusion of the ORI investigation.

—Staff writer Julia L. Ryan can be reached at jryan@college.harvard.edu.

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