The practice of fellowship judges writing recommendations for fellowship applicants does not represent a conflict of interest, three judges said yesterday.
Both James D. Wilkinson, assistant professor of History and Literature and a Knox fellowship judge, and Katherine H. Auspitz '63, assistant professor of social studies, and a Shaw fellowship judge, said that they wrote recommendations for several candidates.
"I can understand people worried about a conflict of interest but I do not think that, in the end, you let yourself be swayed by bias," Wilkinson said.
The presence of three Knox judges ensured unbiased selection of winners, Wilkinson said. He added that only one of the four students he recommended became a Knox finalist and none became a fellowship winner.
Three of the ten Knox winners and all three of the Knox judges are from Lowell House.
Wilkinson denied any bias toward Lowell House applicants, but said the Knox committee was "under a certain subtle pressure to take women because the Knox was just opened to women."
"You cannot penalize a student because the person who knows him best also happens to be on the selection committee," Wilkinson said, adding that a knowledge of fellowship applicants aids the selection process.
Wilkinson said that a judge would appraise an applicant he knows whether or not he had written a recommendation for that applicant.
Harvard's small size makes recommendations from judges unavoidable, A. Lowell Edmunds III '60, associate professor of Classics and a Sheldon fellowship judge, said yesterday. Edmunds said that he is "fairly sure" that no Sheldon judges wrote applicant recommendations.
"It is not that easy to find people to serve on a committee, and the kind of professor who will be writing letters for students is the same person who you will find volunteering to serve on a selection committee," Edmunds said.
A recommendation from a judge "could only hurt a candidate by putting the other committee members on their guard," Edmunds said.
Joseph P. Healey, a counselor in the Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning, said yesterday that judge recommendations involve "only a handful of people."
According to Wallace P. Wormley, North House fellowships adviser, recommendations from judges are "not uncommon."
Auspitz acted only in her capacity as head tutor of the Social Studies department when she wrote recommendations for Shaw applicants, Anne Cherner '76, a Shaw candidate, said yesterday.
"You should not underestimate the independence of judgment of committee members," Edmunds said. "I have never seen any dishonesty or unfairness on fellowship committees."
Auspitz wrote a Shaw fellowship recommendation for Neal H. Stulberg '76, one of 12 finalists now competing for one of the four $4000 traveling fellowships.
Stulberg said Tuesday he sees "no conflict of interest" because of Auspitz's position on the Shaw selection committee.