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By Lan N. Nguyen

A scholar who is a leader in the field, willing to work long hours, will participate in the committees which run the University, and has a deep commitment to research and teaching.

This description might well fit the job requirements for a Harvard scholar, say several professors interviewed recently. Not only must they publish and teach, they say, but there is an expectation that they will actively contribute to the Harvard community. They are often compelled to juggle many tasks and hold several different positions, they say.

"Harvard has a small faculty compared to comparable universities," says Marjorie Garber, professor of English. "People are forced to wear different hats." Garber is also associate dean of the Faculty for affirmative action and director of the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies.

Porter University Professor Helen H. Vendler says that the University is run by the faculty and not by professional administrators, thus increasing the burden on professors to perform multiple tasks in addition to teaching. Vendler says, however, she "would not change it for the world."

"We prize that administrators comes from the faculty and will go back to it when they are done," she says. "We have fellow faculty members to run our lives, and we help them run it."


In the past year, what professors are doing inside and outside the University has come under greater scrutiny. Last spring, the Corporation requested that the FAS create a more formalized way for professors to report their outside activities.

In addition, former acting Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky wrote on the declining sense of citizenship in his annual report, which was released earlier this fall.

In a report based on anecdotal observations, he said "there has been a secular decline of professorial civic virtue in FAS" and that several professors take advantage of a structure based largely on common law and an understanding that "a Harvard professor's primary obligation is to the institution, essentially students and colleagues--and that all else is secondary."

Rosovsky, in an interview, says that although professors should be independent, the greater Harvard community also has rights and should be able to ask how professors spend their time.

"The faculty is a collegial type of institution," he says. "It is a loose group of colleagues. It depends very much on people carrying on their share of departmental duties."

Rosovksy, who is also Geyser University professor and a member of the Corporation, says that his suggestions are in part tied to financial issues. The Corporation has suggested creating a database to help administrators with decision-making and establishing a FAS committee to define citizenship.

"The country is in extreme economic difficulty," Rosovsky says. "It is not clear we are catching up. How can we maintain the high quality [of Harvard] with a resource basis that is not growing rapidly or not at all? This is a new situation in my lifetime. How you spend you time is becoming more important."

The database would include information such as salaries, classes, class enrollment, general activities and leaves of absences. "We [administrators] think there needs to be more knowledge the University with the highest possible degree of efficiency," says Rosovsky.

But several professors say a system where scholars report their outside activities is not necessary. A professor's work does not fall between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., they say.

"I agree the faculty should be in Cambridge and accessible," says Garber. "[But] the Corporation is thinking of a 9 to 5 workday that is not academic. As an academic, I work every day, work that is often not at the office."

In addition, they say that although there are some professors who are bad citizens, many of their colleagues do fulfill their citizenship duties. "[Citizenship] is a matter of give and take in any department," says Vendler. "It all depends on good will. For the most part, people have been generous [with their time]."

Garber says that a reporting system "is not advisable. It is not the best way to achieve the goals. We need to have clear guidelines for people to expect the faculty to abide by them."

The definition of citizenship is unclear, some scholars say. They say that for certain fields, working and consulting in the private and public sectors are essential to scholarship. Therefore, they argue, activities such as consulting are difficult to categorize.

"There is a close connection between policy anaylsis, scholarship and policy advising," says Jeffrey D. Sachs, Stone professor of international trade. "Economics is an area where, because parts of it are heavily devoted to public policy issues, it is natural for Harvard involvement [in the public arena]."

Sachs is currently on a unpaid two-year leave of absence to study the economic transformations of the East European communist countries and the U.S.S.R. for the United Nations University.

"The work I was doing as an advisor to the Polish economists was so completely consuming, so, I took a full leave of absence," he says. "But I will be back in September."

Sachs says that his outside work enhances his scholarship and what he can offer to his students. "My basic philosophy is that part of the work is involved in actual problem solving," he says.

Similar problems exist for professors in many other fields. For scientists, their lab work is part outside activity, part research and part teaching, says Biology Department Chair Walter Gilbert.

"The real stress in the sciences is research," he says. "Science is very much like a trained apprenticeship. There is a much more intimate connection because students and you work together."

"In the sciences, to run a lab is an all-day, every day occupation," Gilbert says.

Back at the Ranch

Outside activities, however, are not the only concern. Harvard administrators say they are equally concerned with how professors spend their time in Cambridge.

Harvard's faculty has an international reputation. But among students, some scholars are merely seen from a distance and are often inaccessible to students. Rosovsky, in part jest, touched on the issue of inaccessibility when he said he too had a difficult time in reaching colleagues during the reading and exam periods.

"Faculty presence is extremely important during reading period and examination periods," he says. "These are precisely the times when students have pressing needs for interaction with their teachers, and in the past that was, I believe, a well-understood aspect of our social contract."

"Judging by the empty corridors and the difficulties I used to have in reaching colleagues in January and May, we can safely assert that this aspect of the social contract is no longer honored," he continues.

But several professors say that accessibility is "a two-way street." Students as well as professors, must make an effort to get to know each other, they say. "Most professors are very shy and don't know how to make overtures to students," says Garber.

In order to offer undergraduates smaller courses and more intimate attention, Harvard would need to hire substantially more professors, they say. Inherent in a university such as Harvard, there will be times when professors will need to leave Cambridge and be considered inaccessible, they add.

"Harvard seeks exceptional people," says Garber. "Sometimes they are required to be on television, addressing the public, and that is good for Harvard."

And says Gilbert, "Education is important, but is second to the recreation of knowledge [researching] and influencing the world."

Students, as well as professors, must make an effort to get to know each other, some professors say. 'Most professors are very shy and don't know how to make overtures to students,' says Professor of English Marjorie Garber.

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