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Psychology Professor to Leave Harvard for MIT

Cognitive Neuroscience Specialist Kanwisher Cites Low Salaries, Tenure Policy for Junior Faculty

By James L. Chen

Citing displeasure with Harvard's tenure policy toward junior faculty, a psychology professor has resigned and will join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Brain and Cognitive Science Department as an associate professor on July 1.

Although Assistant Professor of Psychology Nancy G. Kanwisher said she had "a wonderful time" at Harvard and has "great colleagues," she criticized the University's tenure policy, which she said treats junior faculty like "temp workers."

"If I thought that the tenure policy was a function of the quality of my work I might go for [a tenured post]," explained Kanwisher. "But that's not how Harvard works."

As an example of how Harvard treats junior faculty, Kanwisher said her MIT salary will be more than 40 percent higher than what she earns at Harvard in the same position. In addition, Kanwisher will have a larger lab with multiple workstations.

"It's a different game over there," she said.

Kanwisher said that she would have stayed longer at Harvard but that jobs at MIT open rarely.

She said she was excited to join a department that she called "as good or even better" than Harvard's.

Daniel L. Schacter, professor of psychology and chair of the psychology department, said the department "thinks very highly of her" and "wishes her the best over there."

Kanwisher's resignation did not surprise department administrators. "We knew about this and we had discussions when it was first known to her," said Schacter. "We had known it was likely."

MIT faculty members said they are excited to have Kanwisher aboard. MIT Professor of Psychology Mary C. Potter said Kanwisher represents the "core ideas of the department."

"She was just more interesting, more energetic and more theoretically driven" than any other candidates for the position, Potter said.

According to Potter, Kanwisher's research in vision coincides with MIT's long-standing interest in this area. "She has done very high-quality work in a field full of not very good work," Potter said.

Asked about prospective replacements for Kanwisher, Schacter said the department has made a selection and is in the final stages of paperwork.

Kanwisher first received MIT's offer last October and accepted this January. She will teach a course at MIT in cognitive neuroscience next spring and in subsequent years will offer seminars on modularity, consciousness and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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