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Athletics, Tenure Reviews and FAS Administrator Searches Remain ‘On Track,’ FAS Dean Gay Says

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay poses for a photo in her office in University Hall.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay poses for a photo in her office in University Hall. By Allison G. Lee
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in an interview Thursday that a multitude of reviews and administrator searches underway across the FAS remain on schedule, despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Gay said the ongoing study of the culture and structure of Harvard’s athletics department, which she announced last September, is still on track to release a public report this semester, though the measures Harvard took in mid-March to ramp down operations due to COVID-19 briefly paused the review.

“In the immediate aftermath of the de-densification, it was a singular focus on executing that. But work around the athletics study quickly resumed, and we are fully on track on the original timeline,” Gay said.

Harvard commissioned the study in light of the centennial of the department’s founding, which will occur in 2026, Gay said in an October interview. She denied that the study was related to the controversy surrounding former head fencing coach Peter Brand, who Harvard fired last July after he sold his home to the family of a prospective student for $300,000 above its assessed value.

Another high-profile FAS review — an examination of the tenure promotion process — also remains on schedule, Gay said Thursday.

“I still just this week have already had meetings with groups of department chairs to talk about the planning for that review,” Gay said.

Gay agreed to launch the review in December, a few days after more than 100 faculty wrote to her demanding such an action. She told faculty she would fully define the scope of the review over the course of this spring before assembling a committee and formally launching the review in the fall.

Though the faculty cited the tenure denial of Lorgia García Peña — who researches race and ethnicity — as a reason the review is necessary, it will not examine individual tenure cases, Gay said in March.

Though the review will continue, FAS indefinitely suspended its search for faculty specializing in ethnic studies in late March, following the de-densification of campus. Several weeks later, Harvard administrators announced a University-wide hiring freeze, alongside other cost-cutting measures, as the pandemic drew heavily on the University’s coffers.

Searches for two new FAS administrators, meanwhile — an Athletics Director and a dean of the Division of Continuing Education — are still moving forward despite the hiring freeze, according to Gay. She said she hopes to select a new Athletics Director by the end of the semester.

The FAS will continue to fill “all essential curricular needs” during the hiring freeze, including time-capped non-tenure-track faculty positions, according to FAS spokesperson Rachael Dane.

The appointments of some lecturers and preceptors will expire this June, and those who have reached time caps will not be able to return to the University. More than 1,200 people have signed a petition urging Harvard to extend the time caps for those faculty by at least a year due to the pandemic.

Beyond her own administration’s ongoing searches and reviews, Gay declined to comment on another ongoing review the University’s central administration is making into one of the FAS’s professors, former Chemistry department chair Charles M. Lieber.

Harvard announced the investigation and placed Lieber on paid administrative leave in late January after he was charged in federal court with failing to disclose funding from the Chinese government.

Administrators have repeatedly declined to specify the scope of that investigation or its timeline.

Though the FAS canceled its April faculty meeting over “insufficient business ready for action,” Gay said faculty meetings will resume as normal in May. Gay added that administrators have been holding “town halls or open office hours” for faculty and staff to come together and share ideas about working remotely.

“Faculty meeting is part of the FAS governance process,” Gay said. “We are still the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, so those will continue.”

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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