Humanities To Continue Hiring

Departments within the Division of Arts and Humanities are looking to fill holes in their faculty left after nearly two years of reduced hiring in the face of a tight budget.

But departments in the division reported receiving inconsistent numbers of authorized searches, often in accordance with their respective sizes.

The English department, for instance—which has over 140 undergraduate concentrators—has been authorized to launch two tenure-track searches—one for a contemporary American specialist with an Asian-American focus and another for a Renaissance specialist, according to Department Chair W. James Simpson.

Some smaller departments, such as Celtic languages and literatures and Classics, said they have been authorized to conduct fewer searches.

According to Catherine McKenna, chair of Celtic languages and literatures, her department—with a faculty of “just three”—does not “anticipate being in a position of seeking to hire in the foreseeable future.”

The Classics department—with approximately 34 undergraduate concentrators—has been authorized to conduct one search, despite the fact that the department lost two professors last year and will lose a third, Gisela Striker, at the end of this year.

At Tuesday’s Faculty meeting, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith said FAS conducted over 40 searches last year.

Mark J. Schiefsky, the Classics department’s director of undergraduate studies, said that he felt his department was not particularly disadvantaged in only having been authorized a single search.

“Obviously, everybody is cutting back,” he said. “We’re very glad to have the one search authorized. It will enable us to continue in the way that we have been.”

In terms of the undergraduate experience in Classics, he said that the department’s focus is now concentrated on the necessities rather than on the “optimal kinds of courses we would like to be able to give.”

But, he added, having two Harvard College Fellows in the department is a temporary solution to the department’s decreased teaching staff.

For her part, Striker, a joint professor in both the Classics and Philosophy departments, said that the most unfortunate consequence of the search allocations will be the impact on the graduate program in Ancient Philosophy.

“We have [a program], but I think that it’s dead,” she said. “With just one senior person on the Classics side, and one junior person on the Philosophy side, you just can’t have a graduate program.”

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at