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Re "Berkowitz's Appeal Process Spanned 1998-99 Academic Year" (News, June 7): The Crimson reports that "While sating the community's curiosity, the availability of almost every missive, statement and document relating to Berkowitz's tenure appeal may have irked the University, which has stamped much of its correspondence 'personal and confidential' only to see it appear at the Berkowitz home page..."
In fact very little of the correspondence that I have received from the University has been marked "Personal and Confidential." I know of only two letters addressed to me marked "Personal and Confidential" that we have posted. And in both cases, it is University administration officials whose conduct leaves something to be desired.
On Nov. 17, 1998, in response to an official letter that I sent to her in accordance with the Faculty of Arts and Science's "Guidelines for the Resolution of Faculty Grievances," I received a letter from Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Carol J. Thompson. In her letter, which was marked "Personal and Confidential," Thompson wrote, "I want to state unequivocally that I have not had, and will not have, any role in your tenure review." Since the contents of Thompson's letter directly concerned my appeal, and since the confidentiality in the appeal process is designed to protect the grievant, Weld Professor of Law Charles R. Nesson '60 and I concluded that it would be appropriate to post Thompson's letter, as it was our practice to do with official communication.
However, we also sought to respect Thompson's concerns. Accordingly, before we posted her letter, Professor Nesson, on Nov. 27, 1998, e-mailed Dean Thompson: "we do not want to do this over your objection, at least until you have had full opportunity to articulate it. Please let me know if you think we are misapprehending the situation. We will wait a few days before moving ahead."
Dean Thompson never replied to Professor Nesson's e-mail. The second letter I received marked "Personal and Confidential" came on Friday, May 28, 1999, late in the afternoon on the last day of the spring term. This was Richards Professor of Chemistry Cynthia M. Friend's nine-page letter on behalf of the Docket Committee informing me that my formal grievance was in every respect "clearly without merit." Although the letter was stamped "Personal and Confidential" by the Office of the Dean, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles himself was the first to make the letter's contents public, and he did so at the first opportunity, first thing on Tuesday morning June 1, immediately following the long Memorial Day weekend, by e-mailing Professor Roderick MacFarquhar, Williams professor of history and political science and chair of the Department of Government, and inviting him to inform colleagues in the department about the Docket Committee's decision, which MacFarquhar promptly did.
I immediately wrote to Secretary of the Faculty John B. Fox Jr. '59 by e-mail, asking him to explain what I was supposed to have understood by the designation of Professor Friend's letter to me as "Personal and Confidential." Fox's reply is instructive: "I marked the e-mail and letter confidential and/or personal in order to protect you from someone else inadvertently opening or reading something which was addressed to you."
Thus, on Secretary of the Faculty Fox's own account, when the Office of the Dean marks a letter "Personal and Confidential," the Office of the Dean recognizes no obligation on the part of the recipient to keep the letter's contents private. What is astonishing, however, is that on Fox's account, when the Office of the Dean marks a letter "Personal and Confidential," the Office of the Dean recognizes no obligation on its part to respect the constraints of confidentiality.
If the source for The Crimson reports of the untrue allegation that many of the documents from the University that Professor Nesson and I have posted were marked "Personal and Confidential," this would suggest the University's ambition to obtain short term gains at the expense of others' reputations and its long term credibility.
June 8, 1999
The writer is associate professor of government.
Name of Seneca Club Inappropriate
Some students joke that the term "final club" refers to the notion that it is the final club you will ever have to join in your life. Indeed, a final club provides a vast social web, allegiance to which affords its members a network of connections that not only extends far, but continues long after one's time at Harvard. With final clubs existing as selective, male organizations, it is unsurprising to me that women at Harvard would endeavor to create a similarly beneficial network for female students and alumni.
An article (News, May 10) reviewing the emergence of the Seneca--a new all-female undergraduate social organization--explores an alternative to filling the gap of a female network. Promising to provide and develop such a support for Harvard females, the Seneca reportedly exists to aid the entire female population, and it is pointed out that the name "signifies women's advancement." The Seneca seems to be a noble idea with positive intentions. However, the resolutions from the Seneca Falls Convention called for equal participation of, and an enlarged sphere of opportunities for women, but did not aim to achieve this goal through inherently elitist means.
The appropriation of the name Seneca seems a blasphemous move by an organization that not only establishes itself as single sex but also proceeds to whittle its potential female members through an application process, and possibly even through dues, which only further an elitist theme. The Seneca Falls Convention called on all women, rather than a select few, and a full third of attendees and signatories were male. I am left wondering for which lucky women at Harvard the Seneca Club seeks to improve life at the expense of which unlucky women.
Chris J. Perriello '99-'00
May 13, 1999
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