Expos Search is a Sham


The job listing buried on the back page of last week's Harvard Gazette was sadly emblematic of the so-called "national search" for the position it advertised. "Director, Expository Writing Program," it announced. "Cover letters and c.v.'s only by January 26..."

The ad, however, appeared on January 28.

After all the recent controversy surrounding the Expository Writing program--culminating in the December resignation of its embattled director, Richard C. Marius--we would expect Harvard administrators to conduct a respectably thorough search for Marius' replacement.

Instead, what we got was the following blunt statement from Dean for Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell, who is leading the search: "The search process, we hope, will complete itself this winter."

The way the search in currently running, we are confident that it will. The question is whether it should.

Several Expos staffers have told The Crimson that the administration has all but guaranteed Marius' post to his current associate director, Nancy Sommers.

Administrators deny that claim. "That is not my opinion," said Assistant Dean of the Faculty for Academic Planning Joseph J. McCarthy.

But, McCarthy's assertion aside, the proof appears to be in the proverbial pudding.

Take the Gazette ads. The first listing for the job ran on Friday, Jan. 21. The deadline for applications was the close of business on Wednesday, Jan. 26. In other words, prospective applicants had less than four working days to respond. McCarthy said the ad was supposed to run in the Gazette a week earlier, but didn't. "The Gazette screwed up," he explained.

To be sure, the post was advertised in the Gazette again--on Jan, 28, two days after the deadline had passed. And it was advertised nationally, once, in the Jan. 12 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education--albeit in a barely noticeable classified ad at the bottom of page B-29. Chronicle readers had a whole two weeks to express interest in the job; FAS Associate Dean for Human Resources Polly Price noted that "the Harvard rule is that we cannot fill a job until two weeks after the first ad has been placed."

Curiously, administrators did not feel the need to place an ad in the Journal of the Modern Language Association, where ads for Expos instructors are typically placed, McCarthy explained that "a director's position is an administrator's position," and administrators read the Chronicle, not the MLA.

Still, it seem that the leaders of the abbreviated search may be feeling some-what, well guilty. That might be why they've placed an additional ad in today's Gazette, and extended the deadline for applications until Valentine's Day. Of course, readers of the Chronicle won't know of the extension, though, according to Price, "anybody who is very interested in the job could certainly call and find out how flexible that [deadlines] is."

"I don't think that would deter anyone from being a serious candidate," she added.

We beg to differ. And we'd like to note that this kind of search in particularly suspect in a program that has been criticized by current and former staffers for its tepid efforts at affirmative action.

It's not that we think Sommers is a poor candidate. Indeed, we think she presents strong credentials; she's well-liked by both students and colleagues, and she should probably make it to at least the final round of any national search.

Yet it is also true that Sommers is not perfect. First, her close professional association with Marius may represent an undesirable continuation of his legacy. And second, as The Crimson has reported, Sommers stands accused by several Expos teachers of "fixing" the results of two writing contests, which raises questions about her integrity.

In any case, the troubles of the past certainly merit more than a token search for the person who is to lead Expos into the future. And if Nancy Sommers is indeed the best person for the Director's job--as she may well be--then she should be able to win it through a legitimate national search.