Faculty Hear From SEAS Deans, Faculty Council, and Professors of Religion at Monthly Meeting

Two deans from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences laid out priorities and concerns on behalf of colleagues involved in the planning process for the school’s eventual move to Allston at the monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tuesday afternoon.

The deans, Steven C. Wofsy and Robert D. Howe, called on University and FAS administration to ensure that Allston will become a thriving neighborhood where SEAS faculty and students can still collaborate productively with the University’s liberal arts core.

Their comments reiterated a number of sentiments that have been expressed by SEAS faculty in recent months. The deans also proposed new ideas such as reimagining the use of classroom space in Allston to optimize digital learning.

“Allston must be part of the overall Harvard campus and Allston must be as central as the Cambridge campus is,” Howe said.

He added that the University must be careful to keep the new SEAS campus connected with other key departments and disciplines.


“At present we distinguish our that our students are embedded in the liberal arts,” Howe said. “If we create an engineering ghetto over in Allston, our students won't have an opportunity for that interaction, and it will be very detrimental for them and our overall engineering program.”

Howe also said that members of the SEAS faculty have participated in two retreats to discuss the move to Allston since it was first announced by administrators in February.

“Originally people thought that the idea of moving across the river was going to represent a threat to that way of thinking,” Wofsy said. “I believe that now we are coming around to the view that it can actually be an incredible opportunity.”

After the presentation by Wofsy and Howe, various professors rose to share their thoughts on the plans for relocation. Diana Sorensen, divisional dean of the arts and humanities, said that she hopes her department will be consulted as the University refines its plan for Allston.

“We believe that the vision that has just been outlined for Allston, which we celebrate, will be deeply enlivened with the presence of the arts, all the art forms, our collections, and, in general, humanistic work,” Sorensen said. “So I just want to say, we are ready to join the conversation.”


The rest of the Tuesday’s meeting featured a diverse array of business, in spite of sparse attendance.

In an attempt to pursue greater transparency on behalf of the Faculty Council—which sets the agenda for Faculty Meetings and is FAS’s only elected, representative body—Docket Committee member Timothy J. Colton, chair of the government department, spoke on projects being considered by the Council this year. These include discussions of potential changes to the Q guide, retirement plans for new faculty members, the rising purchase price of scholarly journals for the Harvard University Library, changing federal Title IX regulations, and the future of the Division of Continuing Education.

Faculty also heard a report from biological oceanography professor James J. McCarthy on the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, as well as an update from Harvard Law School professor David J. Barron ’89 on the electronic communications task force he leads. Barron’s commentary garnered some feedback from faculty members, who proposed looking at existing privacy standards for other modes of communication as a model for an electronic policy.

More substantive discussion was given to a report by a working group within the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard. Chinese history professor Michael J. Puett explained that the report calls for the creation of a Council on Religion, which will enable the Committee to develop and evaluate four-year standard curricular plans.

Comparative religion and Indian studies professor Diana L. Eck, a member of the Committee, also pointed out that the new report will allow for the merger of the Divinity School and FAS doctoral programs into a single religion Ph.D. program.

The last Faculty Meeting of the semester is slated for Dec. 3.

—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.


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