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The Dunlop Report

Brass Tacks

THOUGH the 48 recommendations of the Dunlop Committee are in themselves enough to keep the Faculty talking most of next fall, the specific suggestions for change are far less remarkable than the tone of the report in which they are offered. For while proposing ways for the University to hire and keep top-notch Faculty, the Committee has also delivered a massive dose of plain talk on Harvard's place in American education and her prospects for the future.

"For a half-century," the first paragraph of a ten-page chapter on The Harvard Community states, "Harvard was believed by many to occupy a unique position in the American system of higher education; and that position no longer seems as secure as it once did." The Dunlop Report pictures the University in 1900 as a magically cohesive community--a haven of the intellectual freedom which was being threatened elsewhere and a peculiarly ascetic institution whose members all proudly rejected the market mentality.

Harvard's decline from this ultimate attractiveness to the nation's scholars is explained in five ways:

* As the University grew, Faculty members naturally became more isolated from each other. With a much larger non-tenured staff, most of whom have little prospect of winning a permanent place here, the University suddenly has "a sizeable transient teaching population."

* Cambridge has changed from an idyllic suburb to a crowded--and, for many, unattractive--city. In 1900 every tenured Faculty member lived within three-quarters of a mile of the Square; rapidly increasing numbers now settle in the suburbs. A whole set of town-gown hostilities developed as the University lost political control of the City after World War I.

* Easy travel, multiple opportunities for government service, and foundation and government research grants have physically detached Faculty from the University community and "encouraged the trend toward setting a monetary equivalent for all the fractions of the Faculty member's time."

* Scholarship has become more specialized and therefore more impersonal. Deans and Department heads don't have the knowledge to understand highly technical research projects of Faculty members here.

* Academic freedom can be taken for granted at many places besides Harvard, and technology--microfilm, the airplane--makes it less urgent for a scholar to live near the most established centers of scholarship.

THE Dunlop Committee explicitly rejects the buoyancy of its predecessor, the Committee of Eight, which in 1938 exhorted the University to "make a conscious effort to offset the natural tendency to academic isolation and the narrow perpetuation of its own internal tradition." That charge is an anachronism, and this report says that the University must consolidate its strengths rather than expand in a futile attempt to cover all fields of scholarship.

This alarming view of the erosion of Harvard's eminence introduces the Committee's specialized suggestions on what the University must do to attract and retain outstanding Faculty: enter the market for scholars with a bit more managerial shrewdness.

The Committee's researches showed that older Faculty members (those past 45) are essentially outside the problem. They tend to have firmly planted their roots by this time so that Harvard has relatively little chance of attracting men over 45 to the Faculty and conversely is in little danger of having its older senior Faculty pirated away by offers of better positions.

Younger tenured Faculty (ages 35-45) are another story. While Harvard's average salary for these men is the second highest in the country, most of her competitors offer a substantially higher maximum. Harvard has traditionally deplored the "star system" and pays all its Faculty of equal age and rank nearly the same salary. While unwilling to abandon this principle, the Dunlop Committee is sure that some exceptions are in order if Harvard is to win battles for younger men and thus recommends "some greater degree of administrative flexibility be regarded as appropriate in individual cases."

The report comes down hard on the University's present treatment of its untenured Faculty, and the top priorities of the report are unmistakably abolishing the title of Instructor and raising salaries in this range. The Dunlop Committee recommendations (if adopted) won't make it any easier for junior faculty to win tenure, but they should make Harvard more attractive to those who are here only for a few years. The road to full professorship will still in most cases be eight years long--with associate professors reduced to something like the 50-50 chance for tenure the Committee of Eight envisioned for assistant professors. Those who leave after three-or five-year terms as assistant professors will be able to use the more prestigious title to negotiate for jobs elsewhere.

Dunlop's Committee recommends few changes in the mechanics of recruitment. It endorses the use of ad hoc committees (groups of scholars outside the department who are called in to approve or reject a department's candidate for a tenured position). But the report deplores what it bluntly calls "the glacial tempo" at which these committees operate. In the interim between first contacts and final ad hoc committee approval a man is often offered huge salary increases by his present employer and turns down Harvard. The report documents in exhaustive detail the complicated recommendations for multiple appointments or departmental restructuring that have started to come out of the ad hoc committees in recent years. Dunlop would like to see more committees given general mandates so that lists of candidates could be mobilized by a single committee and departments spared the time wasted while committees consider one candidates at a time.

WHILE the balance of the Dunlop Committee's study and recommendations fix on straightforward improvements in salary and benefits, the report concedes that Harvard cannot rely on these devices to maintain the quality of its Faculty. "If you're going to have a distinguished Faculty," Dunlop remarked Monday, "that means that three-quarters of them could pull up stakes and make more money elsewhere." Harvard professors are routinely bombarded with more lucrative offers, and those who do leave, according to a Committee survey, do so for reasons other than salary.

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