As Harvard tries to recruit more women and minority professors, faculty members are worried that the pool of qualified candidates is shrinking because fewer undergraduates are going into careers in academia than in the past.
William H. Bossert, Arnold professor of science, raised this issue at the Faculty Council meeting on Wednesday during a discussion of the Faculty's annual report on affirmative action.
In an interview last night, Bossert said undergraduates are getting the impression that job opportunities in academia are scarce and that career advancement is uncertain.
"There is the image of the Ph.D. driving a cab in Manhattan," Bossert said.
He added that while the job market is not that bad in the natural sciences, it is worse in the humanities.
According to Bossert, undergraduate women and minorities in particular are led to think that academia is largely white and male.
"I am concerned that some of our best minority and women scientists are going to medical school instead of the arts and sciences," Bossert said.
According to Bossert, the problem is not limited to the natural sciences. Many top humanities concentrators are going to professional schools rather than graduate schools that might lead to careers in academia.
Bossert said the problem is that the College does not have enough role models for women and minorities, adding that some departments do not try as hard as others to recruit them.
"There are some areas of the sciences where we are not doing so well," he said. "We have to hire predominantly women."
Bossert said he would like the College to have more symposia and guest lectures by successful minorty and women.
"If we haven't got the faculty ourselves, let's bring them in as visiting professors," he said. "Let's really bias our selection of visitors towards women and minorities."
Charlene S. Ahn '98, a physics concentrator and a Goldwater Award winner, said she is planning to go to graduate school and enter a career in academia, despite the low number of female professors in the physics department.
Ahn, who was recently named one of 53 candidates for junior Phi Beta Kappa for the class of '98, said she is encouraged because there are a lot of female graduate students in physics.
"There are a lot of other things I could do if I couldn't make it in academia and it's not going to hurt to try," she said.