Rudenstine Backs Museum Firings

Says Knowles Made Correct Decision

President Neil L. Rudenstine said yesterday he accepts the decision by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles to fire 10 staff members of the Harvard Semitic Museum.

Rudenstine's comments come amidst community-wide criticism of the decision to curtail the museum's public programs and relocate some of its collections in the face of a $1 million deficit.

Earlier this week, the Cambridge City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling the museum's restructuring "another in a continuing series of affronts to the people of Cambridge by Harvard University."

And the president said he has received roughly 10 letters on the subject since the restructuring was announced.

But Rudenstine said the layoffs--which were recommended to Knowles by a faculty committee that included the museum's director--were a necessary response to the museum's deteriorating financial condition.


"It seems to me that [Knowles] handled it in just the right way, in terms of the kind of process he's gone through," Rudenstine said. "Given the financial realities and the recommendations of the committee, it seemed to me that a difficult thing was done, but done in as well-considered a way as it could be."

Rudenstine said he has no intention of reversing Knowles' actions.

"I don't think [there is any way the decision will be reversed]," he said.

Rudenstine defended the role of the museum's director, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel Lawrence E. Stager '65, in chairing the faculty committee that recommended the restructuring.

"You had to have the director, sure," Rudenstine said.

Several members of the museum's outgoing staff have suggested that Stager never demonstrated an interest in the museum's public activities since taking its helm six years ago.

And one longtime supporter of the museum, Lecturer in Social Studies Martin H. Peretz, alleged in an editorial that appeared in The Crimson last month that Stager wants the museum only to advance his own specific research interests.