Faculty Meeting Notebook

Motion To Allow Free Online Access To All Harvard Scholarly Articles; New VES Ph.D.

While its ways are sometimes criticized as opaque, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences took a big step towards openness yesterday, passing a motion that will allow Harvard to freely distribute scholarly articles produced by FAS professors.

The motion, which passed easily at yesterday’s Faculty meeting, grants Harvard a non-exclusive copyright over all articles produced by any current Faculty member, allowing for the creation of an online repository that would be “available to other services such as web harvesters, Google Scholar, and the like.”

Professors can still submit a written request to waive the application of the policy and maintain control of their copyright even if the policy is applied, allowing them to have the articles published in scholarly journals.

Robert Darnton ’60, director of the University library, emphasized the motion’s importance in opening up Harvard’s resources.

“This is a way of sharing the intellectual wealth of Harvard, which is for the public good,” he said. “We think it can make a very important difference in the way scholarly communication in the new digital age.”

Even those expected to oppose the measure supported it.

English professor Stephen Greenblatt, the editor of what he described as a journal with “a decent reputation and a quite anemic subscription base,” advocated for the motion because he doubted it would accelerate the death of his journal, and because he said he was worried about the currently high cost of many monographs.

“This is one of the only ways we can break the backs of the monopolists who are currently seriously damaging our fields,” he said.


Also passing by unanimous vote at yesterday’s meeting was a motion to create a Ph.D. program in Film and Visual Studies. The program will consolidate course offerings from a variety of departments, including Visual and Environmental Studies (VES) and Anthropology.

David Rodowick, the acting chair of the VES Department who helped write the proposal for the program four years ago, said before the meeting yesterday that the department would aim to begin accepting applications for the program in the fall of 2009.

Rodowick added that he believed that the new program and the coincident increase in graduate students would help improve the “research culture” of the department, and likely promise a “noticeable enhancement of the classroom experience” for undergraduates in the field, whose courses may be taught by the new crop of doctoral students.

—Staff writer Maxwell L. Child can be reached at

—Staff writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at