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Bruce D. Watson, a popular section leader for Social Analysis 10, “Principles of Economics,” will not be allowed to continue teaching next year despite the protestations of students, Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck, and incoming Ec 10 professor N. Gregory Mankiw.
And though some Houses have occasionally hired residential tutors who do not have current Harvard affiliations, Eck said that Watson will not be rehired as one of those exceptions next year.
Watson has reached the six-year limit of his appointment as a teaching assistant, a position for instructors who are not current graduate students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
FAS policy mandates that teaching assistants only teach for four years, with the possibility of a two-year extension for an exceptional instructor.
“The basic rationale for this policy (which has been in place for many, many years) is that we do not feel that the quality of education in the College would be well-served by creating a semi-permanent adjunct faculty, and do not feel that the academic careers of individuals who are appointed as teaching assistants would be advanced by long-term employment in this category,” Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Vincent Tompkins wrote in an e-mail.
Watson’s highest degree thus far is a Masters in Economics, which he received from the University of Colorado.
“I may pursue the PhD, but for now I’m really into teaching,” Watson wrote in an e-mail.
Watson is well known as a competent section leader in Ec 10, a full-year course which generally enrolls more than 500 students—it was the largest course offered by the College this year—and students have expressed frustration that FAS policy could preclude Watson from continuing to teach.
When Carolina Lescano ’08, who was in Watson’s Ec 10 section this year, learned of his impending departure, she and a section-mate started an online student petition, “Students for Bruce Watson.”
As of yesterday evening, the online petition had 769 signatures.
Lescano and David P. Borden ’05 presented a copy of the petition to Dean of FAS William C. Kirby on Friday, May 27, according to Undergraduate Council Student Affairs Committee Chair Aaron D. Chadbourne ’06, who helped arrange the meeting with Kirby.
After the presentation, the students, Mankiw, Tompkins, and Assistant Dean of Social Sciences Rebecca E.F. Wassarman met for approximately 45 minutes to discuss Watson’s situation.
Tompkins, Wassarman, Mankiw and Kirby all declined to comment on the content of the two meetings.
“My understanding is that [Watson has] reached the limit and he can’t stay,” Mankiw said in an interview last week.
And Watson will have to leave his post as Lowell House Assistant to the Senior Tutor as well.
Eck said that because Watson will no longer be affiliated with a Harvard graduate school, Lowell House has declined to reappoint him, even though the House has not hired a resident tutor in Economics for next year.
“It’s part of our requirement as a resident tutor that all our resident tutors be in good standing with their departments and have affiliations with FAS,” said Eck, adding that affiliations with Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Law School also qualify. “It’s happened in other Houses...[they] appoint artists and things like that, but it’s become much less common.”
Yet Eck expressed her dismay at Watson’s impending departure.
“I have gone to bat with two or three deans to try to get an extraordinary appointment with him in the Economics department,” Eck said.
Students have said that Watson shows unusual dedication as both a section leader and as an advisor.
“He always has kids in his room, giving advice on everything from class to life,” said Adam M. Virgadamo ’07, an Economics concentrator who went to Watson for academic advice as a freshman.
“As much as you were willing to put in, he was willing to match you—and more,” said Virgadamo, who now lives in Watson’s entryway and co-founded the “Students for Bruce” group on thefacebook.com.
And both Lescano and Chadbourne said that Watson’s multiple review sessions before each exam are widely attended, and that he keeps tabs on individual students’ progress.
Watson also received praise as a full instructor. He took over Economics 1010a three years ago, after the instructor, Lecturer on Economics Robert H. Neugeboren ’83, was temporarily removed from the class due to student complaints.
Watson has received multiple nominations for the Levenson Prize in the past three years, and won the prize in 2001.
Though Watson will be leaving the College, he will teach at the Extension School starting in the fall.
“I will definitely be teaching a course on finance in the Extension School in the fall, and the Extension equivalent of Ec10 in the spring.” Watson said.
—Staff writer Jannie S. Tsuei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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