Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

A Notable Dean

July-August 2005

The appointment of Thomas professor of government and sociology Theda Skocpol as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), announced June 3 by Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) dean William C. Kirby, was front-page news in the Boston Globe. It was seen there as a sign of current campus conditions after the winter’s conflicts between Massachusetts Hall and FAS. Skocpol, a scholar of social-welfare policies, bluntly criticized President Lawrence H. Summers during the February 15 faculty meeting, saying that he was attempting to “turn our deans into transmission belts to implement centralized directives.” When the faculty voted its lack of confidence in Summers on March 15, she offered a motion expressing regret about his management, proposing “collegial” ways of proceeding, and asserting “longstanding” faculty prerogatives; it passed 253 to 137 (see “At Odds,” May-June, page 55).

Theda Skocpol
Photograph by Justin Ide / Harvard News Office

Skocpol, Ph.D. ’75, denied tenure in 1980, filed a grievance that was ultimately decided in her favor by President Derek C. Bok. She became professor of sociology in 1986. (Full disclosure: Skocpol was an FAS-nominated director of Harvard Magazine Inc., 1993-1999, and has since been a member of its Board of Incorporators.)

Upon her appointment, Skocpol declared GSAS “a vital part” of FAS and of Harvard. Effective July 1, as FAS’s highest-ranking woman academic dean, she will grapple with aid for doctoral students, their role in teaching undergraduates, and the proliferation of joint and interdisciplinary programs with other Harvard schools.