Waiting for the White Smoke: A Peek at Harvard's Tenure Searches

An Overview

Tenure searches at Harvard are said to be a serious, stately matter, with built-in checks and balances and procedures that can take years. The process has also been compared to giving birth, and if the analogy holds, one can understand why departments don't like to be seen in labor.

Moreover, it seems, academics don't like to hurt each others' feelings. To publicize the names of those being considered for a Harvard position, the argument goes would embarrass and insult those who don't get the nod in the end.

Of course, more professors acknowledge that word gets out anyway, that most historians around the country, to pick a random field, know which of their number Harvard is looking at.

But the tendency toward privacy--some would call it --prevails, to such an extent that professors are often wary to discuss even whether a vacancy exists, on what stage a search is at. This is the policy, at least, of Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence.

This listing is an attempt to bring the process out in the open a little, and to put in perspective the individual tenure stories that run in Harvard publications.

By Department


No tenure searches underway. But Chairman Werner Sailors met with Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence in early November, and a joint-tenure slot with Religion or Music might be in the works.

"Four joint appointments on a tenured level is what I see as the shape of the department," Sailors said in October. With Glenn C. Loury having moved to the Kennedy School, the department currently has three such appointments.


At least one search is being conducted, according to Department Administrator Michael A. McGrath. He refused to give details.


Cellular and Molecular Biology has recommended a candidate for tenure, but President Bok has yet to convene an ad hoe committee to review the recommendation, said Department Administrator Diane Baldwin.

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology: "We're at a standstill," Adminstrator Assistant Mary C. Reynolds said mysteriously.