In the wake of two controversial tenure denials to female junior professors, a panel of professors yesterday offered suggestions as to how the University could improve its tenure record for female and minority professors.
Entitled "A Closer Look at Harvard's Hiring Practices: Women and Minority Faculty Tenure," the discussion was organized by students in reaction to President Neil L. Rudenstine's decision to reject the tenure bids of associate professors of government Jean C. Oi and Jennifer A. Widner.
More than 125 students, faculty members, administrators and alumae attended the forum, which was held in Science Center B.
"We felt that students and other members of the Harvard community should become educated on a tenure process because we're in a position to ask questions that current junior and perhaps senior faculty members can not ask," said Sarah S. Song '96, a principal organizer of the event.
Marjorie Garber, associate dean of the Faculty for affirmative action, opened the panel with a description of the Harvard tenure process. Garber criticized Harvard's criteria for hiring.
"Harvard's search for the 'best in the world' is hubristic," Garber said.
Professor of Fine Arts Irene Winter agreed that the Harvard search for the sole top professor in each field is sometimes exclusive.
"The best, a single standard to arrive at the best, works against diversity," Winter said.
The panelists also discussed Harvard's tendency to hire top professors from outside, rather than promoting from within. The reason behind this practice is the unfair pressure on junior faculty to publish works while fulfilling administrative duties and teaching tasks, panelists said.
"The question is whether or not [there should be] any flexibility in time between associate and assistant professorship," said Professor of Government Seyla Benhabib.