THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT'S recent decision not to promote four assistant professors reveals what is at best a confused system for granting promotions that few people in or out of the department completely understand.
"There seems to be a lot of confusion in the History Department about the criteria and procedures," Phyllis Keller, associate dean of the Faculty for academic planning, said last week. Even Wallace T. MacCaffrey, department chairman, admitted that the currect method for judging teaching ability is "primitive at best." He added, however, that he was unsure of how to improve the system.
One step in the right direction would be to make criteria for granting promotions clear to junior faculty, as Dean Rosovsky suggested last week. In addition to making suggestions, Rosovsky should take the initiative and work with department heads to develop procedures.
The standards used to judge junior faculty should be made more consistent. Promotion should follow careful and equitable scrutiny of both scholarship and teaching ability. In addition to sitting in occasionally on candidates' classes, senior faculty should consult students, who can contribute to a full evaluation of teaching ability.
Because the History Department has failed to make its promotion policy clear, the public is free to read political biases or other prejudices into decisions. As long as the department grants or denies promotions under confused circumstances, it will remain open to such charges.
The department will very likely be unable to fill the vacancies created by the denials in the near future, Patrice L.R. Higonnet, professor of History, said last week. Moreover, the departures of Nolan and Bayat will leave the department with no women faculty. Under these conditions, especially in a department that does not have enough instructors to teach a sufficient number of courses, denials of promotion are baffling and irresponsible.