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East Asian Studies Reexamines Tutorial Hiring Qualifications

* Hiring of non Ph.D. candidate tutor leads to drafting of new departmental rule


Faced with a question about the qualifications required for tutorial leaders, the head tutor of the East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) department is drafting a rule saying all junior tutorial leaders in the department must be Ph.D. candidates.

The policy-which EALC Head Tutor Leo O. Lee, professor of Chinese literature, said he "should have put on paper" sooner-will spell out the previously unwritten rule that all incoming tutors must be enrolled in an advanced graduate program.

EALC hired a doctoral student last May to take the position as tutor, but had to replace him when the student later declined the offer.

His replacement-a master's candidate who asked not to be named-said he reluctantly agreed to lead the East Asian Studies (EAS) Chinese social-science junior tutorial when recruited this June by Ezra F. Vogel, co-chair of the EAS Faculty committee and Ford professor of the social sciences.

The master's candidate had previously served as a teaching fellow for Vogel.

On Sept. 10, the master's candidate chose to resign after being told by Lee that he was not qualified for the position.

Lee was in Hong Kong this summer when the master's candidate was hired, and said he initially deferred to Vogel about the hiring choice, because he was not aware that the master's candidate was not enrolled in a doctoral program.

The master's candidate-who has won awards as a T.F. and has studied extensively in East Asia-said that when he accepted the post, he moved to Massachusetts and drafted a syllabus.

He said he would not have accepted the post had he been aware of the unwritten policy.

Lee said that the requirement for a Ph.D. exists to maintain an academic standard in the junior tutorial.

A person "could be very well-liked, but I need to defend my own principles," Lee said. "I would not hire a Nobel laureate [if] he doesn't know how to teach Chinese literature."

Vogel attributed the incident to "imperfect coordination" which stemmed from "the fact that all three of us were traveling."

Vogel declined to comment further, except to note that the master's candidate is an "excellent scholar and has a outstanding record as a [T.F.]."

Though the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has no universal requirements for hiring tutors, many concentrations have official hiring policies regarding junior tutors.

"In most cases the people hired are advanced graduate students, others working toward Ph.D.s-not to mention Faculty themselves," said Jeffrey Wolcowitz, associate dean for undergraduate education.

Head tutors of various departments confirmed this rigor.

In the history, history and literature, and philosophy concentrations, junior tutorial leaders are always advanced graduate students, the head tutors said.

"Tutors need to have passed their oral exams", said Janice Thaddeus, head tutor of history and literature. "It makes them more confident in their knowledge and better prepared to teach."

Yet "exceptional circumstances arise," said Michael G. Hagen, head tutor of the government department. In his department, Hagen said, the result of hiring discrepancies "depends on the details of the matter."

In the case of the master's candidate, the details never came into play.

The master's candidate expressed regret at losing the post, saying that his students "would have had a great year," but added he withdrew to prevent "a political war" in the department.

"I didn't want a whole brouhaha," he said. "I have no ill will toward Professor Lee...and the utmost respect for Dr. Vogel."

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