Professors' Private Lives


To the Editors of The Crimson:

I wish to reveal a carefully guarded secret: faculty members have private lives. Even graduate students (who endure many abuses on the grounds that it would be bad for their careers to do otherwise) may have a right to privacy. Let me illustrate some common examples of what happens when it is not known that there is life beyond the university.

My academic year began when, on Sunday evening before classes began, a student called to discuss my plans for one of my courses. Later highlights of the year included a Sunday morning phone call inviting me to speak at a seminar here (a faculty member calling). Another esteemed colleague called late one evening to check a footnote. A highly regarded former student called, on behalf of the Radcliffe Union of Students, to invite me to participate on a panel on how a faculty member may combine family and career. The panel was to be held on Saturday (I responded that one way to combine those aspects of our lives was to decline as much as possible such invitations).

While this letter is triggered by a late night phone call (WHRB) last night that woke up all my family but for my youngest daughter (mercifully, she sleeps soundly), the prize for the year goes to a Harvard Crimson reporter. Having twice been told by my secretary that I was unreachable for that day, the reporter began calling home, reaching every member of the family seriatim as they arrived home from school or work. Each time the reporter was told the truth: they did not know where I was, but please do not call around 6 p.m. because we would be having dinner then. Whereupon the reporter gracefully called at 6:05 p.m.

On an antiquarian and deeply sexist note. I might say all of these examples deal with women. I used to think that women were more likely to distinguish between the office and the home because they may have reflected more on how their father's career in the olden days over-whelmed mother and children. Thus I confess that I regret at least one feature of the widespread professionalization among women at Harvard. Women are now apparently just as likely as men to disregard the autonomy of the home. Of course, just as many examples can be given of the same long standing regrettable behavior among men.


As a personal plea, let me urge those of you who are thinking of calling a faculty member of graduate student at home on work-related matters: don't. Even if you think you must, don't. And if the world is coming to an end, don't wait past 9 p.m. The children might be asleep. Jorge I. Dominguez   Professor of Government