The Mail

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

Your recent article on the demise of the Clinical Psychology program, while accurate, did not touch on what I feel are some of the important issues involved. The decision taken by the Social Relations Department is a regrettable one, destructive not only to psychology and graduate training but also to the breadth of undergraduate education.

The decision represents a further move in the direction of defining psychology only as "empirical" research, and is a forsaking of a productive Harvard tradition. It may seem puzzling that Harvard was unable to staff a professorship in what is in fact the largest specialty in psychology. The affair is tremendously complicated; but one thing is clear: the University has promoted the application of rigid academic standards even in a field where clinical experience and competence are obviously relevant.

Traditional scholarship is undeniably important, but there are certain absurdities involved in weighting publications (and often only publications that meet "scientific" journal standards) to the exclusion of any other factors. Teaching skill, of course, is also ruled out by this narrow criterion for appointment. It is unrealistic to expect that any one person could combine both unequalled research and a strong commitment to working with people in clinical situations.

But the Harvard image seems to demand such a mythical being, and the fruitless search leads to general exasperation and thence to the kind of self-defeating outcome we have just witnessed. For what of the perfect professor, a degree program is scrapped and the future range of experience and interests within the Social Relations Department is radically limited. This kind of assertion of academic purity is deeply detrimental to teaching, practice and research in psychology. Robert May Teaching Fellow in Social Relations