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In the face of widespread faculty criticism of the number of tenure offers made to female faculty, University President Lawrence H. Summers pledged at yesterday’s Faculty meeting that last year’s “unacceptable” figures would not be repeated.
“We have already matched last year’s rather sorry total,” Summers said.
He and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) William C. Kirby did not commit to any new procedural changes aimed at tenuring more women, but did say Harvard would look into changes like increasing the availability of day care that would make it easier for women before the tenure review process began.
“Our results in appointing senior women are unacceptable,” said Kirby. “Last year should have been and will very quickly become an anomaly.”
Of the 32 tenure offers made last year, only four of them—or 13 percent—went to women. These numbers have declined successively every year since 36 percent of all offers went to women in 2000-2001, the last year that Neil L. Rudenstine served as University president.
Professors who spoke at yesterday’s meeting expressed near-unanimous approval for measures aimed at increasing tenures of women.
Dean for the Humanities Maria Tatar said that while female students are present at Harvard in numbers comparable to their population in society, “women and minorities begin to vanish” when it comes to professorial positions.
While initial tenure recommendations are made by individual departments, Tatar referenced yesterday a plan announced earlier this fall through which the four divisional deans will make sure that departments are considering women and minorities throughout the hiring stages.
“There will be some reviewing” of tenure searches, Tatar said.
Jones Professor of American Stud
ies Lizabeth Cohen, a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, said that Harvard must make a systematic effort to remedy the tenure problem.
“We have to own up to it, we have to come up with remedies, and we have to stick with it,” Cohen said.
Cohen said that the standing committee has recommended the restoration of the post of associate dean for affirmative action as a means to promote gender and racial diversity among the faculty.
Ann W. Rowland, assistant professor of English and American literature and language, said Harvard should focus on hiring nontenured female professors out of graduate school.
“If you are wondering where the women are, [they] are in our graduate schools. They are our students,” she said, adding that Harvard should focus on the “hiring and then also the training of [junior] faculty.”
But not every faculty member approved of putting an increased emphasis on gender in the tenure process.
Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 said that his colleagues had presented no proof that a problem exists because they had not shown that discrimination against women exists.
He said the only diversity issue that affects female faculty is the absence of conservative women.
“Try to find a conservative professor at the Radcliffe Institute,” he said.
“I’m amazed but in a sense not even surprised” at the discussion, he added.
Barbara Gross, the Radcliffe science dean, responded by saying that while overt discrimination is not occurring, “our implicit biases” have lead to the dearth of offers to women.
In other business, Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba ’53 formally announced Harvard’s plan, in conjunction with Google, to digitally scan and place online 40,000 books, with a view to eventually placing almost all of Harvard’s 15 million volumes online.
Yesterday’s meeting also inaugurated a procedural change designed to free up more time for substantive discussion. Two “memorial minutes,” which are read at the beginning of each meeting to commemorative the lives of deceased professors and which usually run about 10 minutes each, will now only be read in an abridged, two-minute-long form.
—Staff writer Laura L. Krug contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer William C. Marra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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