In his annual letter to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Dean Jeremy R. Knowles focuses far less on money matters than in past reports. The Corporation's 28 percent increase in funds disbursed from the endowment for the fiscal year beginning this July 1 (see "The Payoff," January-February, page 62) explains this circumstance. But if the dollars are plentiful, the professors, apparently, are not. In a section on faculty "demography," Knowles reports, with "some chagrin," that the number of professors has not grown since 1987. This steady state is confounding, since in the past seven years the FAS has received gifts that support nearly two dozen incremental faculty positions.
From the 1987-88 academic year through the present one, Knowles's data show, the number of tenured professors did, in fact, rise 12.5 percent, from 384 to 432. But the junior ranks declined by nearly 24 percent, from 224 to 171.
Why the shift? Knowles offers several partial explanations. An increase in internal promotions to tenured positions has tended to depopulate the junior faculty. Filling the resulting vacancies may, ironically, be slowed by rigorous efforts to find other potentially tenurable junior professors, causing departmental "search exhaustion." Meanwhile, given the weak job market in certain fields, more junior professors may decamp early in pursuit of jobs at other institutions, where their chances for tenure are better than at Harvard.
Whatever the causes, the number of unfilled positions has climbed over the past decade. And so, as he promises to "continue energetically to seek funds for new professorships, and steadily to grant incremental positions to those departments in the greatest need" of more teachers--a top FAS priority in the University Campaign--Knowles exhorts his faculty colleagues to help "in fulfilling this critical goal." Because he hopes not "to find that we are simply increasing the number of open slots," the dean over the next year promises to examine why departments differ in their relative success at attracting new faculty members to Harvard.
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