The Sociology of Sociology

Theda R. Skocpol

Sociologist Theda R. Skocpol, who was offered tenure at Harvard after a four-year battle that included the filing of a successful sex discrimination grievance, will decide by the end of the year whether she will accept the post, she said last week.

Skocpol--now a tenured professor at the University of Chicago--filed the grievance against Harvard's Sociology Department five years ago when she was denied tenure, forcing a reconsideration of the original decision. After a year-long review of her case by President Bok, Skocpol was offered a lifetime post in the department last December.

The sociologist also has an outstanding offer from the University of California at Berkeley, said Geoffrey Keppel, dean of social sciences there.

Skopol said that by December 1985, at the latest, she will have "decided among one of the three."

Skocpol's husband William, who is a physicist at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, is currently looking for job opportunities in the Cambridge and Berkeley areas, Skocpol said. There are no job possibilities for her husband in the Chicago area, she added.


But she added that her final decision will "depend first and foremost on my own negotiations with Harvard. I might come whether or not Bill gets a job in Cambridge."

If Skocpol remains at Chicago, she would likely have to continue commuting between Chicago and New Jersey, where her husband would be working.

"I'd be perfectly happy to stay at Chicago," said Skocpol. "It's logistically difficult, but professionally good."

Sociology Department members, however, speculated that family matters would play a crucial role.

"My feeling is she would prefer to come here if her husband can get a job here," said Professor of Sociology Orlando Patterson.

"She definitely likes Harvard," Patterson said. "Theda is not a California type of person, and I think she knows it.

"If the Dean [of the Faculty A. Michael Spence] can come up with a suitable offer and if her husband finds a job in the area, she is more than likely to come here," he added.

Cornell University professor Michael Hannon, who was offered tenure by Bok at the same time he decided to deny tenure for Associate Professor of Sociology Paul E. Starr (see accompanying story) has yet to announce his decision, said Sociology Department Chairman Aage B. Sorensen.

Hannon, a quantitative sociologist, received the unanimous support of the department, department, sources said.

If he comes here, he will likely help the department move towards a more quantitative approach to the discipline, a goal recommended to Harvard by an outside advisory committee of sociologists four years ago.

Starr would not have helped the department move in that direction, department members said.

Department members said that Hannon's decision hinges on whether his wife, who also is a sociologist, can find a job in the Cambridge area.

"Hannon has made it perfectly clear that he will not come unless his wife, who has a tenure-track position [in Sociology] at Cornell, gets a similar position here," Patterson said.

Hannon was unavailable for comment.

Sorensen said that the department will likely begin discussions and searches for two available slots in the fall.