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IT'S ALL SLAVIC TO ME

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Waclaw Lednicki, distinguished scholar and critic who has just been appointed visiting lecturer, will be a valuable addition to Harvard's topnotch Slavic department. But his presence here raises two pertinent questions: (1) If Professor Ernest J. Simmons' appointment was terminated last year as an economy move, how can the University afford to import an expert to fill his shoes? And (2), since Slavic scholars don't grow on trees, what would have happened to the department if Professor Lednicki hadn't happened to be available?

The answer to the first question is that as far as the Slavic department is concerned, the University is losing on the deal. The bulk of Simmons' work was in the English department, and for their share of his time the Slavic department annually footed a bill of about eight hundred dollars. And presumably Professor Lednicki will get paid at least three times this amount.

Before answering the second question, it is well to recall that almost a year ago, at the peak of the tenure controversy, Dean Ferguson stated that the loss of a large number of assistant professors would not seriously affect undergraduate instruction. This was figuring pretty close in Slavic, but at that time it did seem just possible to fill the gap created by Simmons' departure. Over the summer, however, two new developments put the Slavic department out on a limb: a Teaching Fellow who had been counted on to share part of the load left for a job in Washington; and the War Department sent five army officers to Harvard to get instruction in Russian, demanding a great deal of the time of one member of the small Slavic staff. The result was a scramble for another man which fortunately resulted in Professor Lednicki's appointment.

This incident in a department which is only a name in the catalogue to most students throws some light on the shortcomings of the University's present iron-bound "up or out" tenure policy. Professor Simmons is a productive scholar and excellent teacher. He was let out as part of a long-range plan designed to keep the Faculty's budget balanced. No one will quarrel with such a policy, but when it is rigidly applied without regard to the needs of individual departments, the quality of undergraduate instruction is bound to suffer. Harvard cannot afford to lose men of Simmons' calibre.

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