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Harvard's Revolving Door

Six Former Faculty Members Look Back With Pleasure ...and Pain


Harvard's 222 junior faculty members are caught in a revolving door. As they spin through their research and teaching duties, they catch brief glimpses of the tight academic job market outside and of the plush life inside the University's tenured faculty. Eventually, a few will come in, but most must get out--quietly or angrily, by choice or by force. Sometimes a tenured faculty members leaves as well. Following are reports about several former junior and senior faculty members who have moved on, including three who were denied promotion or tenure last year.

Katherine Auspitz

Although she spent most of a decade teaching here, Katherine Auspitz is reluctant to talk about Harvard.

A former associate professor of Social Studies, she left two years ago because of the "up or out rule" requiring junior faculty to depart after eight years if they are unable to obtain tenure. Students protested then, urging administrators to give her a post in another department or an administrative job, but their efforts failed.

Now Auspitz is at Wellesley for a year as an associate professor of political science, and she prefers to speak about her book coming out next fall. "I do not want to compare the two insitutions," "she says, but adds of Wellesley, "I like it."

Writing her book, "The Radical Bourgeoisie," has taken most of her time--"all my eggs are in that basket," she says. Auspitz speaks excitedly about her findings in the work, particularly the discovery of radical activity among the French bourgeoisie in the second half of the 19th century.

"Many people feel the French bourgeoisie ceased being radical after 1860s, busy--they were the generation that made the Third Republic," she elaborates.

Auspitz is also teaching an introductory political science course, emphasizing "issues and concepts." But she declines to speak of her future, saying only, "I'm exploring a number of programs." --Paul A. Engelmayer

Richard Brecht

When Richard D. Brecht was denied tenure in the spring of 1979, he took the unfinished 500-page manuscript of his book on tense in Russian grammar and packed it in a box on shelf. It has remained there ever since, although the shelf is no longer in Cambridge--Brecht's home since 1965--but at the University of Maryland, where he is now chairman of the department of Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures.

"Perhaps if I had finished that book I would still be at Harvard today," he says. Although the former associate professor of Slavic Languages--Who is described by many of his old students here as the finest teacher they have ever known--emphatically denies that he feels any bitterness towards the University, it is impossible not to detect a note of regret when he speaks of the friends he made and the students he taught in 15 years at Harvard.

"I enjoyed every minute of my time with the students and the Faculty, but one would have to be a fool to expect tenure at Harvard," he says.

When he left the University, Brecht adds, he found there were only two open tenured positions for scholars in his field--Slavic linguistics--in all of Europe and the United States, and his acceptance of an administrative post outside his specialty became "a somewhat disappointing necessity."

"I used to be a teacher and a scholar, which are very fine things to be," he says, adding, "Now I am an administrator, which really is not as satisfying. I teach one course, and I have very little time to be with students.

Yet Brecht remains optimistic. He plans to take a semester off next year in order to finish his book, and he says he still encourages his best students to combat what he calls the "brain-drain in Humanities" by entering the academic market.

"Of course, sometimes it's hard not to feel terribly resentful about the whole thing, but there was no deception; the rules for promotion were essentially clear," Brecht says, adding, "Ultimately I think what I got out of Harvard was much more than they ever got out of me."   --Sarah Paul

Peter Dale

Peter Dale captures his new life in a line: "There's a lot less stress here: a lot less worrying about problems--You don't have to stay awake at night listening for every siren that goes off."

When Dale, former assistant professor of English and senior tutor at Adams House, was denied an associate professorship last spring, he turned down the offers of several other universities and left Cambridge for the pastoral setting of Davis, California.

Now an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Dale--a native Californian--is confident he made the right choice.

"I love it here. The students are very good, and I probably have as wide a range of teaching opportunities here as I did at Harvard," Dale says. He adds that the town of Davis is a big plus.

"Cambridge, particularly in the Harvard Square area, is very crowded, very busy and very dangerous. Davis has at most 30,000, 35,000 people, and students are very much a part of the community," he explains.

Dale is currently finishing his second book--a study of science and imagination in the 19th century--and working on a collection of essays. In addition, he is teaching a class on 19th century fiction and an introductory poetry course, and he plans to conduct a seminar on Dickens next trimester.

But while Dale is generally happy in his new position, there have been a few disappointments. For one, he misses Harvard's program of tutorials and independent study--an option which is missing at Davis.

Perhaps more important, Davis specializes in science and agriculture. "At Harvard I could pretty much assume that there would be a lot of interest in English literature, but here the humanities are on the defensive," he says.

All in all, Dale concludes, the benefits of year-rounds sunshine and a quiet community in which to raise his family outweigh Davis' disadvantages, and he expects to stay there indefinitely.

"Despite what some Harvard professors and students insist on believing," he says, "intellectual life is alive and well in the provinces."   --Wendy L. Wall

Mary Nolan

Mary F. Nolan has no regrets about leaving Harvard--"I've found a much nicer place to work," she says.

The former assistant professor of History--who left the University last year after she was denied promotion to associate professor--now teaches Modern European and Women's Social History at New York University (NYU), where she says she has found a feeling of intellectual community that did not exist at Harvard.

"NYU's history department has an infinitely more congenial intellectual environment," she says, adding that "There is a greater commitment to teaching, and the graduate students in particular are extremely bright and dedicated."

The rancor in her voice is unmistakable when Nolan attributes here denial of promotion here to a "mixture of political and sexual discrimination" brought on by her declared Marxist views and her open support for student demands that Harvard sell its investments in corporations operating in South Africa.

"Certainly discrimination of this type is more market at Harvard than at other Universities," she says, calling the low number of female Faculty members here and the recent denial of tenure to sociologist Theda Skocpol "particularly shocking."

Nolan's sharpest criticism, however, is reserved for Harvard's "male-dominated" History department, where she taught for five years.

"At Harvard the morale is low and the program undeveloped, whereas NYU's department has five female members and an exciting, intellectually stimulating atmospheres," she says, adding that the prospects for tenure in her present position are much stronger than they would have been even if she had gained promotion here.   --S.P.

David Kaiser

For someone who was denied tenure at Harvard just last winter, David E. Kaiser '69 doesn't seem unhappy.

"I think I've got everything here," he says of his new life in Pittsburgh, where he is assistant professor of history and social sciences at Carnegie-Mellon University, adding, "My plans are to stay put indefinitely."

That just may be possible. Unlike Harvard, where Kaiser taught History for 15 years, Carnegie-Mellon hires junior faculty "with the understanding that they will get tenure if they continue to perform at the same level," he says.

Kaiser certainly seems to be performing--in addition to teaching 20th century international relations, he recently completed a book, "Economic Diplomacy and the Origins of the Second World War." He has also begun a study of the "question of European hegemony," a work he says stems from his years of teaching History 1331, "The Problem of Domination Over Europe," at Harvard.

Declining to comment on the History Department's decision to deny tenure to him and three other assistant professors last January, Kaiser says, "Let's just say I have no regrets about taking this job."   --P.A.E.

Thomas Pettigrew

After 23 years on the Faculty, Thomas F. Pettigrew, former professor of Psychology and Social Relations, decided last June he was tired of disputing with his Harvard colleagues and of slogging through the mud and slush of Cambridge.

He now holds a profesorship at the University of California at Santa Cruz and lives in a house with a swimming pool, overlooking Monterey Bay near San Fransisco.

"Some people may think I left just for the weather and the good life, but the overriding factors were definitely the intellectual attractions here at Santa Cruz," Pettigrew says.

A social psychologist specializing in American race relations, Pettigrew explains that he left Harvard largely because tensions between specialists in social psychology and psychology had built steadily since the Social Relations and Psychology Departments merged in 1971.

"There were gradual decreases in faculty positions and other areas of support in social psychology," he recollects, adding that "no one who knows anything about the field way very surprised at my move."

In fact, several of Pettigrew's close colleagues and former students from Harvard's are now at Santa Cruz. "Harvard was very good to me," he says, "but life here is much easier--there are no attacks upon us. I got tired of academic fights."

Pettigrew first saw the advantages he would have at the University of California when he taught two courses there in 1979-80 during a leave of absence from Harvard. Those advantages include better computer facilities, more graduate students, and California's "prosperous and stimulating" atmosphere, he says.

Although Santa Cruz emphasizes teaching more than Harvard, Pettigrew adds that "I'm getting more of my own work done here than I ever did at Harvard, where research is so stressed."

As a native Southerner, Pettigrew admits he always disliked the climate and atmosphere in the Northeast. "There's really nothing I miss about life at Harvard," he says, adding, "I'm a little surprised I haven't been more nostalgic."   --Sarah L. Bingham

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