Rudenstine's Letter to Professors Protesting Honig Tenure Decision

I appreciate your candid reaction, and I recognize the depth of your disappointment concerning the outcome. I also recognize that, because my decision represents the final step in the case, there may be little that I can say to allay that disappointment. In addition, as you know, I am constrained in my response by the need to respect scrupulously the important principle of confidentiality that underlies the ad hoc process.

What I can assure you is that I weighed this case, as I weigh all cases, with great care. I reached my decision based on all the materials and testimony before me, having carefully reviewed the dossier several times and taken into account the entire range of views expressed. In cases where I decide not to approve a recommendation for a tenured appointment, I do so knowing that my decision may well be questioned, sometimes strongly, by some distinguished scholars whose judgment I respect. In these circumstances, I know of no way to proceed other than to be as comprehensive and careful as I can be, and then to reach a conclusion based on my conscientious assessment of all of the evidence presented.

On the more general issue concerning my own and the university administration's commitment to increasing the opportunities for women on the Harvard faculty, I recognize, again, that whatever abstract words of reassurance I can offer in this letter--coming in the context of a concrete decision with which you disagree--are unlikely to alleviate your concerns. Let me say only that the ad hoc process is an extraordinarily rigorous one, for both men and women. Some adverse outcomes occur every year, and it is difficult yet genuine reality that a number of individuals will proceed to the ad hoc stage of tenure review but not finally be approved. Your letter refers specifically to concerns about increasing the number of tenured women in FAS social sciences departments, and I agree that this is a matter of continuing concern. I would only add that, in 1996-97, five women have been the subject of ad hoc tenure reviews for appointment in FAS social sciences departments; four of them have been approved for tenure. I assure you that my commitment to the advancement of women at Harvard remains unequivocal, and I have every confidence that we will continue to make effective progress.

Thank you again for taking the time to write, and for sharing your views with such directness and conviction.


Neil L. Rudenstin