Calling Harvard's record on tenuring women "quite a good one," President Neil L. Rudenstine last week criticized a recent attempt by the Radcliffe Class of 1960 to withhold its class gift in protest of Harvard's lack of female faculty.
"I really don't think the withholding of the gift is a very productive approach because I think we are doing a very intensive, sensible job," Rudenstine said in an interview last Wednesday.
In early June, members of the Class of 1960 voted to withhold its 35th Reunion gift to the University because of "profound concern over the status of women faculty at Harvard," according to Frances O. Zimmerman '60.
The class's attempt to retain the gift in an escrow fund was unsuccessful, however, because the money had already been given to the University.
Rudenstine said he feels that the University should "go out and do our best to explain to them [the Class of '60] why we think they could actually help the cause by giving the gift."
"I think we'll all be better off if we work together," he said.
Members of the Class of 1960 have spoken out to protest what they have called Harvard's "glacial progress" in the matter.
"There is a growing impatience on the part of many members of the class at the slowness of progress of the tenuring of women," said Joan L. Bolker '60.
Bolker currently chairs a committee looking into ways the class can influence the University's hiring process through donations.
But Rudenstine objected to the premise that discrimination is responsible for the small number of women the University has been able to tenure.
Instead, he pointed to low turnover on most of Harvard's faculties and to the large amount of time needed to acquire the expertise necessary for a tenured post at Harvard.
"I think it's very hard for people outside an institution to understand what the realistic pace of changing the composition of a tenured faculty is," he said.
The president said that even if the University tenured only women, "it would still look like slow motion to someone outside of the institution" because of the small number of positions that become available each year.