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.