Faculty Council Greets New Faces

On the day of its final meeting of the year, the Faculty Council—the highest governing body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)—welcomed its seven newest members, who will serve until the spring of 2009. This class of 2009 is made up of four tenured professors and three non-tenured professors, including two humanists, three natural scientists, and two social scientists.

The 18 members of the council, excluding the Dean of the Faculty, are nominated and elected by the faculty.

Mathematician Wilfried Schmid, an active participant in faculty meetings and vocal critic of University President Lawrence H. Summers’ administration, joins the council 26 years after coming to Harvard.

He said that his fellow faculty members supported his election because they agree with his call for a slimmer University administration.

“Harvard used to have a rather lean sense of administration,” Schmid, who is the Robinson professor of mathematics, said. “Now, there are many layers of deans. It is not clear that the faculty council can do a lot about this; however, I want to do what I can in that direction.”

On the subject of general education reform, the last major piece of the College’s curricular review, Schmid said that his “opinion was formed relatively early.”

“I arrived at Harvard around the same time as the Core in ’78,” Schmid observed, “I always felt that the Core curriculum was too rigid.”

Historian Caroline Elkins, another new addition to the council, won a Pulitzer Prize this year for her book on British colonial rule in 1950s Kenya—a work that began to take shape while she was a graduate student at Harvard.

Elkins, who is Foster associate professor of African studies, says she wanted to join the council because of the quality of its current members.

“The faculty council is comprised of a diverse group of members of the Harvard community who come with certain sets of knowledge,” Elkins said.

She highlighted her who own qualifications, noting that since she does work on Africa, teaches history, and is a woman, she will bring a different perspective to the council. She joins fellow historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who is vice-chair of the council.

In addition to Schmid and Elkins, the new council will include English professor Louis Menand, art historian Irene J. Winter, chemist Eric N. Jacobsen, historian of science Sarah Jansen, and scientist Ann Pearson.

Menand, the Bass Professor English and American Literature, joins the council after having served on the Harvard College Curricular Review’s Committee on General Education. A member of so-called “Gang of Five”—a name bestowed by FAS Dean William C. Kirby—Menand helped to craft the program of general education that may eventually replace the Core.

Boardman Professor of Fine Arts Irene J. Winter came to Harvard in 1995 and recently worked with international authorities to secure and preserve art pilfered from Baghdad museums following the American invasion. In the past, she has chaired the department of Fine Arts and served on the FAS Resources Committee.

Emery Professor of Chemistry Eric N. Jacobsen has already served on the council this past year, in place of Loeb Professor of Chemistry Stuart L. Schreiber, who will leave the council definitively this year. In 2003, Jacobsen was appointed by Kirby to co-chair a working group on general education. He is currently the director of undergraduate studies for the chemistry and chemical biology department.

Associate Professor of the History of Science Sarah Jansen focuses on a wide range of historical and scientific issues including the history of life sciences. Her studies have brought her from Germany to Canada and England as well as the U.S.

Cabot Associate Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Ann Pearson arrived at Harvard five years ago. She specializes in biogeochemistry.

The seven new additions will replace Director of the Harvard Foundation Dr. S. Allen Counter, social psychologist Mahzarin R. Banji, Slavicist Julie A. Buckler, physicist John Huth, historian Lisa M. McGirr, Schreiber, and classicist Richard F. Thomas.

—Staff Writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached at