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In New Letter, Harvard Divinity School Students Join Calls to Review Prof. Ragab Tenure Denial

Andover Hall at Harvard Divinity School
Andover Hall at Harvard Divinity School By Thomas W. Franck
By Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

A group of Harvard Divinity School students have joined undergraduates in criticizing the school's decision to deny Associate Professor Ahmed Ragab tenure in a letter to University President Lawrence S. Bacow, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, and Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton this week.

Ragab is the first Muslim faculty member to come up for tenure at the Divinity School, according to the letter. In the letter, members of the Harvard Divinity School Students Association praised Ragab’s teaching and mentorship of students from underrepresented groups. They asked the Divinity School to review his tenure process and reconsider him, citing the school’s mission of “building a world in which people can live and work together across religious and cultural divides.”

“We strongly believe that the denial of tenure to Professor Ragab is antithetical to the vision of this institution,” the students wrote.

Multiple members of HDSSA’s board did not respond to request for comment or declined to discuss the letter.

The HDSSA letter is the second large-scale student statement sent to administrators about Ragab since his tenure denial. Last week, hundreds of students and alumni signed a letter denouncing the Divinity School’s decision and calling on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — where Ragab holds an affiliate position — to put Ragab up for tenure review. The undergraduates' and alumni's letter said Ragab is the first scholar at the Divinity School in a decade to be denied a full professorship without receiving a review from an ad hoc tenure committee.

Both letters pointed to Ragab’s scholarly contributions, contending that he is the “most published” professor of any who has come up for tenure at the school in the past two decades.

Ragab — who is the director of the Science, Religion and Culture program at the Divinity School — did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Divinity School does not appear to publish its tenure policies on its website.

Divinity School spokesperson Gordon M. Hardy declined to comment on the most recent letter, pointing to an earlier statement in which he said the school does not publicly discuss individual tenure cases. University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on behalf of Bacow and Garber.

HDSSA’s letter also called on the Divinity School to increase the “transparency” of its tenure process, arguing that decisions about whether to grant tenure affect not only professors preparing for tenure, but also their advisees and the broader community.

“Many students were wholly unaware of the Divinity School’s decision until weeks after the decision; it is still unclear as to what the exact reasons for denial of tenure were,” the letter reads. “We maintain that releasing the rationale behind Professor Ragab’s denied tenure, as well as future decisions regarding tenure, is vital to the health of this community."

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at jonah.berger@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at molly.mccafferty@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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ReligionHarvard Divinity SchoolHistory of ScienceFaculty