A warm welcome to one president, and an ambivalent goodbye to another.
Harvard faculty who responded to The Crimson’s annual survey of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences said they were largely satisfied with FAS Dean Claudine Gay’s tenure and recent election to Harvard’s presidency.
Just over 61 percent of surveyed faculty said they were “extremely” or “somewhat” satisfied with Gay’s election to the Harvard presidency.
In contrast, faculty respondents offered mixed opinions on the tenure of Harvard’s outgoing president, Lawrence S. Bacow, with only 42 percent of faculty respondents indicating that they were satisfied with his tenure.
The Crimson distributed its survey to more than 1,300 members of the FAS and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, including tenured and tenure-track professors, non-tenure-track lecturers, and preceptors. The survey collected demographic information and opinions on a range of topics, including Harvard’s academic atmosphere, life as a professor, and political issues.
The anonymous 124-question survey received 386 responses, including 234 fully-completed responses and 152 partially-completed responses. It was open to new responses between March 23 and April 14. Responses were not adjusted for possible selection bias.
The first installment of The Crimson’s faculty survey focused on faculty opinions on the controversy surrounding professor John L. Comaroff, as well as Harvard’s Title IX procedures. As Gay prepares to assume Bacow’s position in Massachusetts Hall, this second installment explores faculty views on Harvard’s top administrators.
FAS spokesperson Rachael Dane and University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment on the survey results.
Surveyed faculty indicated general satisfaction with Gay’s tenure as FAS dean and viewed her election to the presidency optimistically, while offering decidedly more lukewarm opinions of Bacow’s term.
Just over 34 percent of surveyed faculty said they were extremely satisfied with Gay’s election, with 27 percent saying they were somewhat satisfied. More than 9 percent said they were somewhat dissatisfied and more than 8 percent said they were extremely dissatisfied with Gay’s election.
Just under 69 percent of ladder faculty said they were satisfied with Gay’s election to the presidency, compared to approximately 53 percent of non-ladder faculty. Around 21 percent of ladder faculty said they were dissatisfied, compared to 15 percent of non-ladder faculty.
In total, a similar majority of respondents — 58 percent — said they were satisfied with Gay’s tenure, with 25 percent and 33 percent indicating they were “extremely” or “somewhat” satisfied, respectively. Under 13 percent said they were somewhat dissatisfied, compared to approximately 9 percent saying they were extremely dissatisfied.
More than 67 percent of ladder faculty said they were satisfied with Gay’s tenure as FAS Dean, compared to approximately 49 percent of non-ladder faculty. Roughly equal percentages of ladder and non-ladder faculty respondents — 21 percent and 22 percent, respectively— said they were dissatisfied with Gay’s tenure.
When it came to the current president, a plurality of respondents — just under 35 percent — were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with Bacow’s tenure. Just over 14 percent of faculty said they were extremely satisfied, while more than 28 percent said they were somewhat satisfied. More than 17 percent of faculty said they were somewhat dissatisfied with Bacow’s tenure, and approximately 5 percent said they were extremely dissatisfied.
In the 2018 faculty survey, conducted shortly after President Bacow was announced as the University’s 29th president, around 46 percent of surveyed faculty said they were satisfied with the choice while 46 percent said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.
This year, a plurality of respondents — more than 37 percent — did not agree or disagree that Bacow had represented their interests well. Nearly 34 percent of respondents said Bacow had done so, with just over 29 percent disagreeing. In comparison, 48 percent of respondents said Gay represented their interests well, with approximately 28 percent disagreeing.
The Social Sciences division — from which both Bacow and Gay hail — had the highest percentage of faculty who said Bacow and Gay represented their interests, with figures of 40 percent and 63 percent, respectively. Surveyed faculty from the Social Sciences division also approved of the selection of Gay by the largest margin — nearly 69 percent.
Similar to the reaction to the December announcement of her election, many faculty celebrated Gay’s election to the presidency in an open-response question asking faculty their opinions on her selection.
One respondent praised Gay’s tenure as FAS dean, writing, “As an FAS Dean, Claudine Gay has been an effective administrator and she acted with integrity in tough situations. The best senior administrator I have ever served under.”
“She was an exceptional Dean and will be an equally exceptional president,” another wrote.
One respondent offered a more ambiguous reaction, writing that Gay “is razor sharp and an impressive consensus builder but I have yet to sense whether there is anything like a bold agenda.”
On the other hand, some faculty disapproved of Gay’s election, with one respondent writing, “Dean Gay does not support the sciences at Harvard, and we are becoming a second-rate research institution as a result.”
Two respondents took issue with her interactions with non-tenure-track faculty, with one writing that they were “concerned by her lack of support,” and another writing, “The things she’s said and done regarding non-tenure-track faculty are egregious and profoundly disrespectful.”
“She acts like she sees us as second-class citizens here, and has participated in initiatives and committees that have actively and deliberately curtailed our professional opportunities here at Harvard,” the response added.
Around 90 percent of faculty said the gap between Harvard faculty and administration had widened over the years, with just under 10 percent saying it had not. More than 71 percent of respondents said faculty should have more power in FAS and University governance, while less than 1 percent of respondents said they should have less.
Approximately 66 percent of respondents said faculty authority had waned over the past several years, while 2 percent of respondents said it had increased. Just under 32 percent of respondents said faculty authority had remained the same. A greater proportion of ladder than non-ladder respondents — just under 78 percent compared to over 52 percent — said faculty authority had diminished.
Just over 52 percent of respondents said they had attended a faculty meeting within the past six months, but approximately 68 percent of respondents said they did not feel it was an effective forum for faculty to express their interests.
A majority of respondents — nearly 58 percent — said that they preferred the in-person meeting format, compared to 42 percent of respondents who preferred the virtual format. Those who had attended a faculty meeting within the past six months indicated greater preference for in-person meetings — approximately 67 percent — while a majority of those who had not — 51 percent — preferred virtual meetings.
After briefly returning to an in-person setting following the pandemic, Gay announced in October 2022 that FAS meetings — with the exception of the year’s final meeting — would be held virtually going forward.
As Gay prepares to assume the presidency on July 1, some faculty spoke to The Crimson this spring about what they wished her successor as FAS dean would prioritize. Surveyed faculty were also asked about their aspirations for the next dean in an open-response question.
In a free-response question, faculty offered a range of candidates for the next FAS dean from across the University. Four respondents suggested Government professor Danielle S. Allen, a former Massachuetts gubernatorial candidate who leads the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics, as a candidate.
Four other respondents proposed current Arts and Humanities Dean Robin E. Kelsey and three proposed Science Dean Christopher W. Stubbs. Two proposed Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, and one suggested Social Sciences Dean Lawrence D. Bobo. One respondent objected specifically to Kelsey, one to Stubbs, and two to Bobo.
Reached via email, Stubbs declined to comment on respondents’ answers. Bobo, Kelsey, and Allen did not respond to requests for comment.
In an email, College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo referred The Crimson to a February interview with Khurana, who strongly signaled at the time that he plans to remain in his current position.
“The answer remains the same,” Palumbo wrote.
In recent interviews with The Crimson, Stubbs declined to comment on whether he was interested in taking the helm of the FAS, while Bobo said he did not want the position. Kelsey has not been available for an interview with The Crimson this semester.
Two respondents called for an external candidate, with one suggesting choosing a candidate from Yale or the University of Chicago.
Only 21 percent of respondents said they felt adequately included in the selection process for the next FAS dean, while more than 42 percent of respondents said they did not feel adequately included. More than half of non-ladder respondents — 51 percent — said they did not feel adequately included, compared to 39 percent of ladder faculty.
The Crimson’s annual faculty survey for 2023 was conducted via Qualtrics, an online survey platform. The survey was open from March 23, 2023 to April 14, 2023.
A link to the anonymous survey was sent to 1,310 FAS and SEAS faculty members through emails sourced in February 2021 from Harvard directory information and updated in subsequent years. The pool included individuals on Harvard’s Connections database with FAS affiliations, including tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty.
In total, 386 faculty replied, with 234 filling the survey completely and 152 partially completing the survey.
To check for response bias, The Crimson compared respondents’ self-reported demographic data with publicly available data on FAS faculty demographics for the 2021-22 academic year. Survey respondents’ demographic data generally match these publicly available data.
In The Crimson’s survey, 47 percent of respondents identified themselves as male and 45 percent as female, with 2 percent selecting “genderqueer/non-binary,” 1 percent for “other,” and 5 percent for “prefer not to say.” According to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ 2022 Report, 39 percent of FAS faculty as a whole are female.
53 percent of respondents to The Crimson’s survey were tenured or tenure-track faculty and 47 percent were non-tenure-track faculty. According to the FAS data, 58 percent of faculty are tenure-track and 38 percent are non-tenure-track.
31 percent of survey respondents reported their ethnic or racial background as something other than white or Caucasian, with 9 percent opting not to report their race. According to the FAS data, 27 percent of faculty are non-white.
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.