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Harvard Suspends Some College Fellow Searches Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

University Hall houses the office of several Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators.
University Hall houses the office of several Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Davit Antonyan and Callia A. Chuang, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard has suspended some of its searches for the College Fellows Program “based on curricular needs” in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The University grants College Fellowships to postdoctoral scholars who have demonstrated a strong commitment to teaching each year. During their one-year fellowship, College Fellows teach within an area of specialization and pursue their own research, receiving a salary and additional benefits.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an emailed statement that even though FAS is suspending some searches, the College Fellows Program will “continue to operate” for the 2020-2021 academic year. Next year, FAS will have more than 20 College Fellows.

“Given the impacts of COVID-19, the FAS made determinations not to continue with a limited number of current Fellows searches, based on curricular needs,” Dane wrote.

The decision comes after Harvard switched to remote instruction for the spring 2020 semester due to the coronavirus public health crisis. On Monday, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 announced Harvard will be open — either in person or online — in fall 2020, and FAS Dean Claudine Gay wrote in an email to faculty and staff that FAS will decide what its format for the upcoming semester will be by July.

Still, graduate students said they were worried about suspensions of College Fellows searches in light of the dwindling job market the pandemic has created. Many universities — including Harvard — have instated hiring freezes in response to COVID-19.

Vivian G. Shaw, a College Fellow in the Sociology department, said she first noticed the loss of some positions after looking at the University website.

“I just looked at the website and saw that some of the deadlines for the College Fellows had been pushed back to May, and so it seems like because the appointments hadn’t been made yet, they were able to cancel the searches,” Shaw said.

She said although the suspension of searches does not affect current College Fellows — whose salaries and positions are already secured — it could impact Fellows seeking lecturer positions. Many College Fellows pursue permanent lecturer roles in their departments after their fellowship, according to Shaw.

“I do know that some people who are looking for lecturer positions for certain departments this year, the departments weren't able to make them available,” Shaw said. “There all these crunches at the departmental level in terms of hiring new people but it’s been difficult to say, ‘Hire new people who aren’t already in the system.’”

—Staff writer Davit Antonyan can be reached at davit.antonyan@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Callia A. Chuang can be reached at callia.chuang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @calliaachuang.

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