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Social Studies head David S. Landes said yesterday he has urged Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence to censure high-ranking members of the Sociology Department for what he termed "unprofessional" conduct.
Landes, who chairs the 21-member Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, made the request in a recent meeting with Spence after the Sociology Department's acting chair and head tutor attacked the interdisciplinary program's academic legitimacy.
"I told him that I thought that [Acting Sociology Chair Orlando] Patterson and [Head Tutor James A.] Davis are behaving in a way that is unprofessional," Landes said. "It's an invitation to acrimony."
Spence has not yet responded to the Social Studies complaint.
If Spence does act, it will be the first official intervention in the month-long dispute between the two departments.
The feud began last month when The Crimson reported on a department memorandum Patterson circulated in December calling Sociology graduate students who teach in other programs--including Social Studies--"disloyal." Since then, professors on both sides have waged a war of words in a series of letters to The Crimson.
Patterson recently expanded his comments, saying in an hour-long interview that Social Studies "confuses excellence with outmoded sociology."
Patterson called Social Studies "Channel 2 sociology," saying it provides a curriculum much like sociology departments in Great Britain. Channel 2 refers to Boston's PBS-TV station, which often broadcasts programs produced in Britain, the acting chair said.
"Now that the issue is in the open, it would be disingenuous to state that there are no problems," Patterson said. "There comes a time when Harvard must ask if it can afford two sociology departments."
But just yesterday, Landes firmly refuted Patterson's characterization of his program, saying that the Sociology chair's comments reflect "very serious intellectual insecurities."
"Our students are encouraged to look at subjects more broadly rather than more narrowly," Landes said. "Social Studies is not a sociology department--it does not pretend to be."
In addition to criticizing Social Studies' curriculum, Patterson said the program is "a graveyard of academic careers," because junior professors with joint appointments have not received tenure in its 30-year history. Patterson attributed this to the high teaching loads for Social Studies professors, which keep them from producing enough written work.
Patterson said persuading new faculty to teach in the interdisciplinary program is like "inviting them to commit academic suicide."
"The dean is saying that Harvard has to offer more hope for internal promotions," Patterson said, referring to Spence's program to encourage departments to tenure their junior faculty. "How can anyone take that seriously,"he added.
Landes, however, said that junior professors inSocial Studies are not handicapped by thedepartment's teaching requirements. "There'snothing about the job that prevents them fromwriting," he said.
"Some have gotten tenure, some haven't--itdoesn't have anything to do with the nature of thejob," Landes added.
Patterson said recently that he sent hisinitial memo because he was concerned that too fewSociology graduate students were teaching in thedepartment, especially in the larger courses wherefirst-year students often make their choices aboutconcentrations.
"It's a golden opportunity to show offSociology and we can't do that if the graduatestudents are teaching sections that aren't fromSociology," Patterson said.
For example, Patterson pointed to Sociology116, "Women and the Law," taught by AssociateProfessor of Sociology Lenore J. Weitzman, whichhe said has a large proportion of non-departmentalteaching fellows.
But Weitzman said yesterday that she made noefforts to recruit from within the departmentbecause she preferred to hire students fromHarvard Law School for this course.
"I haven't tried to recruit Sociology graduatestudents," Weitzman said, adding, "I have neverhad trouble getting Sociology graduate studentsfor other courses."
And one Sociology graduate student, whorequested anonymity, said that although he hadnever taught in Social Studies himself, theprogram offers many incentives, such as earlyhiring and high salaries.
"People who teach in Social Studies have alsotaught in Sociology," the graduate student said,adding, "it's not like they're not here."
And Landes said Sociology has often been unableto find places for all its prospective teachingassistants.
"We took their graduate students when theycouldn't get jobs in Sociology," Landes said."Sociology should be grateful for it."
As for now, Patterson said he has tried tocreate incentives within the department to bringSociology graduate students back. And, he said, hewants to continue to press his concerns aboutscholarship and teaching in Social Studies.
"I think it's time the Harvard community[recognized] that this is not a tempest in ateapot," Patterson said. "Hopefully we can have arational discussion about these problems."
Landes, however, said the debate has gonebeyond professional and rational discussion.
"It makes [Sociology] look small," the SocialStudies chair said. "The last thing I want to dois provoke them to fee! any worse than theyalready do.
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