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THE IDEA OF PROMOTIONS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

More significant to the future of this university than the careers of two instructors is the problem of the administrative procedure and academic criteria involved in Harvard promotions. From the evidence of the Faculty Committee's report it is apparent that in one case the department concerned, the Dean of the Faculty, and the President became involved in an unnecessary misunderstanding. During the discussion of promotions last year the Department of Economics was never informed as to the full, meaning of the President's ruling. The Dean did not point out to the President the Department's conception of the ruling, and he failed to canvass the opinions of qualified persons outside the Department as to the merits of the candidates for promotion. At best, the Dean was a poor mediator between the Department and Mr. Conant, who himself made no attempt to enlighten the matter through clarification.

Even more vague and unsatisfactory are the academic criteria used in making promotions. Apparently, no official, least of all the President, has tried to make clear the concrete standards which should determine promotions. The policy he has formulated since becoming President has been almost completely contradicted by actual conditions. He has said: "Every permanent member of the staff should be a teacher and scholar." But, to take one example, Harvard badly lacks the type of teacher capable of interesting the beginner, especially in large lecture courses. He has mentioned subordinating the quantity of research to the quality of mind, yet the "pressure for publication" is a serious joke among younger men of the Faculty, and quantity of production seems to them most of the battle in promotions.

More intelligent criteria exist than mere publication. With it should be weighed that kind of scholarship "personally communicated" through lecturing and tutoring. The probable future attainment of candidates for promotion should be considered even more than what they have accomplished. In seeking the liberal road, Harvard has set up the ideal of academic freedom--of having a variety in method and point of view. But despite the President's interest three years ago in labor economics, Harvard has had a paucity of labor instruction in the past decade. It is evident that a sound promotions policy requires a grasp of the concrete issues at hand, rather than the mere following of precedent. It should be realized that comparative judgment of men in different stages of development is impossible. Further, the extent to which a man would diversify the interests of a department must be considered. Lastly, since no university can live apart from society, it fits a department of economics to deal with what Taussig called "social applications or implications."

Thus, while the Dean of the Faculty seems to have neglected his administrative function in the past, the President's actions have been inconsistent with his policy on promotions. For the sake of the University and to remedy quickly and intelligently the muddle situation of promotions. We sincerely hope that the President's Committee will be encouraged to continue the second and more important part of its investigation.

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