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Plans for FAS Hiring Change

In a move that will lighten the constraints of earlier financial cutbacks, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith will allow six additional searches for new faculty to go forward in the coming months, he said yesterday.

The inclusion of the new searches will spell a forty percent increase over the 15 searches that remained authorized in December, when Smith slashed hiring plans by more than half in response to unprecedented losses posted by the University’s endowment.

The FAS leader declined to elaborate on the source of the funds used to finance the new searches, save that some of them had been made possible by vacancies in endowed professorships, which are supported by restricted funds specifically reserved for departmental teaching positions.

“There is a significant misconception on the part of the national media that Harvard University has suspended faculty searches,” Smith wrote in an informal notice given to The Crimson yesterday. “I can say unequivocally that Harvard has not, will not, and cannot stop searching for new faculty.”

In the wake of December’s hiring slowdown, Smith—who has the final word on authorizations of faculty searches—said he has been working with departments and divisional deans to find more faculty searches that FAS can afford.

Lizabeth Cohen, chair of the history department, said the administration allowed her unit to continue a search for an endowed professorship for Latin American history because “they would not cost FAS money.”

Departments have also been examining their specific restricted funds to determine any that could be used without interfering with FAS cutbacks, according to Diana Sorensen, divisional dean of the Humanities.

With the six new searches, the administration has now approved searches within 16 departments, as well as two cross-divisional searches in Egyptology and Culture of Medicine.

Yesterday’s notice stated that FAS is conducting a total of 28 searches, only 21 of which fall within its divisions. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which falls under the FAS umbrella, accounts for the other seven searches, all of which have been authorized since before the onset of the financial crisis, according to SEAS Interim Dean Frans A. Spaepen.

Though SEAS is a school within FAS, it operates under a different set of financial constraints and uses its own endowment for professorships, according to Spaepen.

Moreover, the school’s administrators have specific designs on faculty growth—aiming eventually to expand the school’s 60 positions to 100, Spaepen said.

Fourteen to 16 of the 28 searches now authorized are for junior faculty. There is a range because some of the searches are “open-rank,” or positions that can be filled by either a senior or junior faculty member, according to Smith.

While Smith emphasized his priority of supporting existing students, faculty, and staff, he said he will continue to look for ways to continue paused searches.

“We know all the searches that were authorized last spring were important to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences,” Smith said. “We should move forward as hard as we can to get back to a point where we can do this.”

—Staff Writer Bonnie J. Kavoussi can be reached at kavoussi@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff Writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.

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