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Citing its ambiguous nature, the Faculty Council considered and rejected a proposal to give more privileges to emeritus professors.
Council members said they disliked the proposal because it left open the question of who initiates emeritus-taught courses, which are currently taught only at the request of faculty members or department heads.
"The council is trying to strike the right balance that will ensure enthusiastic and active participation of emeriti [while still providing] opportunities for younger scholars to emerge into larger roles in the department," said Professor of the History of Science Allan M. Brandt.
Faculty expressed concern that allowing emeriti to teach courses indefinitely could lead to stagnation and prevent younger faculty from having a chance to teach the larger courses.
"On the one hand, everyone wants to make it clear that emeriti are still part of the community and that their contributions are valued," said Theda Skocpol, professor of government and of sociology. "At the same time, we want to make sure that departments and programs can call forth the leadership of younger faculty."
Because the University cannot set a mandatory retirement age, it has tried to make retirement attractive by offering enticing benefits and allowing retired faculty to remain part of the University community.
"There's a lot of sentiment on the part of the Faculty Council and the Faculty in general to make Harvard a supportive and engaging environment for emeriti," Brandt said.
But he said the proposal was defeated because it was too vague on the issue of departmental autonomy.
"[There's] always an issue about departmental autonomy and University procedure," Brandt said.
"A lot of discussion focused on the issue of where University Hall should set explicit standards and regulations for participation of emeriti in department affairs," he added.
Others said that allowing emeriti to initiate teaching departmental courses would bring back formerly problematic professors.
Skocpol said there was no age division in arguing for or against the proposals.
"There wasn't a lot of division of the Faculty Council. There was no generational warfare," Skocpol said.
The proposal will be revised and resubmitted to the Faculty Council.
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