Tenure Decision Aftershocks Continue

Economics Profs. Fear Additional Loss of Whinston

A group of professors in the Department of Economics have reportedly joined the growing list of Faculty upset over President Neil L. Rudenstine's controversial decision to deny tenure to Associate Professor of Government Bonnie Honig.

Honig's husband, Professor of Economics Michael D. Whinston, is now considering leaving Harvard for an opening at Northwestern University, which has offered both scholars tenured positions in their respective fields.

And sources say that some in the economics department sent Rudenstine a letter "expressing dismay" at the possibility of losing Whinston, one of only two industrial organizations specialists on Harvard's Faculty.

Several senior Faculty members refused to comment on the letter, citing its private nature. However, one signatory who asked not to be identified said that the letter made no judgment on Honig's qualifications for tenure, but "merely made the point that the decision not to tenure her has an additional cost."

But Monrad Professor of Economics Martin L. Weitzman, who did not sign the letter, said that Rudenstine should remain unswayed by this most recent plea.

"[The tenure process] works well enough in practice and they shouldn't be hit over the head because they have relatives on Wall Street or anywhere else," Weitzman said.


The letter from the economics department is one of several expressing concern over the Honig tenure decision to cross the president's desk in recent weeks.

A letter composed by 15 of the most prestigious female professors on campus that called into question Rudenstine's commitment to affirmative action has already brought the debate into the national spotlight, with a recent report on the issue in The New York Times.

The President said last week that he would not review the Honig decision.

Whinston to Northwestern?

Northwestern Assistant Chair of Economics Ian Savage said yesterday that it "was my understanding that there has been an offer [to Whinston], but I don't think things have been resolved."

Savage said that he believes that Northwestern hopes Whinston would begin at the beginning of the next academic year.

He added that Whinston could significantly strengthen the Northwestern economics department.

"I think the other thing he might add is that our department has been raided at the senior level by the Princeton economics department. Mike Whinston would ideal replacement as a very senior person," said Savage.

Whinston and Gund Professor of Economics and Business Administration Richard Caves are the only two professors currently in Harvard's department specializing in industrial organization.

Whinston's focus is more theoretical, according to Caves, who signed the letter and termed Whinston "a leading scholar."