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Knowles Looks to Increase Faculty-Student Ratio

By Rosalind S. Helderman, Crimson Staff Writer

Apparently, 650 just isn't enough. Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles announced last week that he hopes to increase the overall size of the Faculty over the next five years.

New Faculty hires could result in more course offerings for students, not to mention a lower student-faculty ratio. At 8:1, Harvard's ratio currently ranks behind both Princeton's and Yale's.

"This is, I think, the lever that will allow us to improve the quality of the educational experience for both our undergraduates and our graduate students," Knowles said shortly before the announcement.

Knowles says a larger Faculty would have tangible benefits for the student body.

"In the long term, I should like to hope (for example) that every freshman might enjoy a seminar course, and that our graduate students might enjoy more 'research apprenticeship' experiences (particularly in the humanities and social sciences)," he writes in an e-mail message.

And according to Knowles, increased Faculty size will help over-worked Faculty members as well.

"Our faculty are more stretched than colleagues in many other universities, and I want both to improve the quality of the educational experience for our students and the quality of life of the faculty," he writes in an e-mail message.

Knowles' announcement came at the first full Faculty meeting of the academic year, and only two weeks after administrators announced that they have raised over $2.325 billion in the University's five year Capital Campaign.

Yet, despite the overall success of the Campaign, endowed faculty positions continue to lag behind.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences hoped to raise enough money to endow 40 new Faculty chairs, but campaign donors have funded only about half of those posts. At $2.5 million a pop, a named professorship is no small donation.

Still, Knowles remains undaunted.

"I have no doubt that over the coming five years and more we must steadily increase the size of the Faculty," he says.

Students and Faculty who serve on the Committee for Undergraduate Education (CUE) praised Knowles' move.

"This will be beneficial for all students," says Alison F. Egan '01, a CUE student representative and Crimson editor. "It will mean more opportunities for advising and more choices for students to interact with Faculty outside of a purely academic setting.

Egan notes also that increasing the size of the Faculty will give administrators more chances to offer coveted tenured positions to female and minority professors, long a concern of the committee.

The potential for Faculty turnover has decreased since 1993, when universities became legally unable to require professors to retire when they reach the age of 75.

Because the Faculty has a limited number of tenured professorships, departments can make new hires only when senior Faculty members themselves decide the time has come to step down--or when new positions are created.

"[Increased female tenures] can only happen over time because of the dynamics of demographics," Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 told a group of Radcliffe alumnae several weeks ago. "To think otherwise is delusional."

According to Dean of Undergraduate Education William M. Todd III, for all its perks, administrators must hire new Faculty carefully.

"[The] incorrect ways to expand? [An] increase that does not eventuate in greater opportunities...for undergraduates," he writes in an e-mail message. "For students, it will mean smaller classes, more course choices, more opportunity for contact with Faculty. But if and only if we key the expansion to undergraduate needs."

Todd suggests asking any department that wishes to expand to demonstrate how its expansion will directly impact undergraduates through, for instance, advising or the Core.

"Unless [a department] has a good plan, the increase in faculty is not approved," he writes.

It's a point not lost on CUE member Jared B. Shirck '01.

"I think Harvard has the habit of helping certain departments and then claiming that the Faculty has grown," he says.

But Knowles says that with Campaign gains, now is the time for careful expansion.

"We have a moment we can grasp, for we have been extraordinarily fortunate in the timing of our campaign," Knowles says. "We can't stand still. Standing still is not an option."

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