Professors Debate Active Recruitment of Faculty

Forum Discusses Affirmative Action, University Hiring of Minorities and Women

With views ranging from the rejection of Affirmative Action to the endorsement of bolstering the role of minority and women faculty members at the University, a panel of professors last night debated the merits of Harvard's hiring procedures.

Five of the seven professors, many of them citing the Verba report as a clear mandate for change in minority and women hiring, said they backed Affirmative Action because it puts minorities on a more equal plane in faculty searches. But two panelists said such plans are demeaning and harmful to the University.

"The pool of women is a large one and of a high quality," said Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, who backed stronger recruitment. "[My department] will be making as many appointments of women as we do of men in the future."

But he said that a small pool of minorities makes Affirmative Action more difficult to institute. "There are not many minorities in biology that we can appoint," he said.

"Unless you [minority and female students] go on to graduate school, we will never solve this problem," said Professor of Sociology Orlando Patterson. Patterson said department heads at Harvard seeking minority faculty must now "raid" other universities.


Roderick J. Harrison, assistant professor of sociology and Afro-American Studies, said, makes Affirmative Action more difficult to its paucity of minority and women senior professors.

"Bad as the [minority candidate] pools are, there were minority candidates being hired elsewhere who were not getting interviewed here or who did not apply here," he said.

But calling Affirmative Action "not a good thing for Blacks," Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield said the program is "a kind of insult to the beneficiaries of it...It implies that you got [a position] without fully deserving it."

Mansfield, the only senior professor to oppose the Women's Studies concentration. when it was approved by the full Faculty threeyears ago, drew fire from other panelists forbeing insulting to successful minorities.

"The pride argument is perverse," saidHarrison. "I dare you to find any case where thequalifications of a Black candidate have beenoverestimated...We take pride in, once given theopportunity, proving ourselves."

Winthrop Professor of History Stephan A.Thernstrom, who said he also opposed specialhiring procedures, said faculty appointmentsshould be based solely on merit.

But supporters of Affirmative Action said thatdiversity among professors can only make thefaculty better.

"It depends on what you mean by AffirmativeAction," said Patterson. "If it means quotas, thenI share Mansfield's disdain. But AffirmativeAction...means predispositions and long-run goalswe can strive for."

"What constitutes scholarship has changed,"said Susan R. Suleiman, professor of romance andcomparative literatures and a key proponent of theestablishment of the Women's Studiesconcentration. She added that hirers should beopen-minded because many women and minoritycandidates are young and have been taughtdifferently.

And, said Seferis Professor of Modern GreekStudies Margaret Alexiou, "We need to be moreaware of their potential and untapped talent.