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Three months after Harvard launched a major push for Afro-Am faculty hiring, seven departments have identified short lists for untenured positions in that field.
Although some faculties are further along than others, all of the departments slated to hire junior scholars in Afro-American Studies for next year have narrowed their application pool to between three and five top contenders, said Afro-Am Chair Barbara E. Johnson in an interview yesterday.
President Derek C. Bok said yesterday that he is optimistic about the University's ability to rebuild the troubled department in the near future.
"We and Barbara Johnson are all encouraged about the amount of work the departments are putting in and what looks like the amount of possibilities that have been identified," said Bok, who has called the Afro-Am searches one of his top priorities for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
"We're still at the stage of bringing in people to speak and evaluating them more closely," he added.
So far departments have not made any offers to senior-level scholars, but Johnson said History has moved forward with its search to tenure a professor in that field.
Although Afro-Am is authorized to make unilateral appointments, no offers have been extended at this time. Some preliminary discussions are under way, but the chair said she expects clear candidates will not emerge until early next year.
In identifying the scholars who would fill tenured positions in Afro-Am, Johnson said she is looking for individuals who are prepared to invest energy in rebuilding the department. "Anybody coming knows the depart- ment needs a time commitment," Johnson said.And yet, she added, "that may lose some people."
Responding to Protests
Recent student protests--particularly lastmonth's overnight University Hall sit-in--havedrawn campus attention to the ever-thinning ranksof the Afro-American Studies Department.
Afro-Am currently has one professor to itspermanent roster. Next semester, when Professor ofAmerican Literature and Afro-American StudiesWerner Sollors goes on leave, only visitingscholars and those with short-term appointmentswill teach department courses.
These demonstrations have prompted harshwarnings from faculty and student administrators,who say the students' actions are inappropriateand only go to hurt the department's ability torecruit top national scholars.
This weekend, Dean of the College L. FredJewett '57 sent a letter of warning to the sevenundergraduates who spent the night in UniversityHall during one of last month's demonstrations.
Despite these admonishments, Johnson, who hasbeen talking with many prospective candidates forAfro-Am posts, said yesterday that much of thestudent protest has been good for the searchprocess.
"So far the impact of the protests has beenpositive," says Johnson. "They have focusedattention."
Although the Afro-Am chair said there waspotential for backlash from scholars who might beturned away by such campus unrest, so far, sheadded, she has seen none.
"Concentrators are right to think offers haveto be timely to be successful," Johnson said,referring to students' demands that the Universityset deadlines for itself in identifying candidatesand in making job offers.
History is seeking to fill a vacancy left byProfessor of History and Afro-American StudiesNathan I. Huggins, who died last spring.
In the past, the department has had difficultyfilling open tenured posts. Still, someadministrators say the general push for Afro-Amfaculty appointments may help move the searchcommittee forward. That panel is chaired byProfessor of History William E. Gienapp, who alsosits on Afro-Am's executive committee.
A few top candidates have already come toHarvard over the last weeks to meet professors andgive lectures. The rest will be coming in Decemberand January, Johnson said.
Only the Psychology Department will havebrought all of its short-list candidates to thecampus for interviews and speeches before thewinter holidays, she added.
The Afro-Am executive committee, made up of 10senior scholars and administrators from across theFaculty, was expected to meet tomorrow. Thatmeeting has been postponed until January becauseit conflicted with a speech by Arnold R. Hirsch,professor of history at the University of NewOrleans, who is being considered for a tenuredposition in History and Afro-American Studies.
Announcements about short-list speakers aresent to Afro-Am concentrators and variousprofessors associated with searches in that field,Johnson said. Many undergraduates, as well asfaculty members, have made a concerted effort toattend the talks, she added
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