Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


ONE OF THE ISSUES directly involving the faculty during the Hallowell administration which caused much agitation was centered around the desirability of placing a ceiling on the number of tenured members in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. There was considerable thought given in the spring of 1968 by the new president to what appeared to be a growing problem of the ratio between tenured and non-tenured individuals in some departments. He first raised the question with the trustees of whether a quota system should be introduced. It was in part a matter of economics, for the university had entered a period of hard times financially, and approximately 75 percent of operating costs at Tufts involved personnel. Senior faculty, tenured almost without exception, were the most expensive for the university. However, Hallowell stressed the educational rather than the financial advantages of imposing a limit on the number or percentage of tenured faculty. He felt strongly that such a limit was necessary to maintain the "continued vitality of any department." There was, in short, the broader problem of how to provide room for "new blood" from time to time in order to prevent intellectual stagnation and at the same time raise the level of faculty excellence by providing for a reasonable amount of turnover. Could expenses be reduced by freezing or otherwise limiting the proportion of tenured individuals?


Hallowell believed that holding to any number below 50 percent was satisfactory, and was concerned that, of the 205 full-time faculty in Arts and Sciences when he assumed office in 1967, 113 (slightly more than 55 percent) were tenured. Of even greater concern was the fact that the number of tenured individuals in some departments, such as chemistry, geology, and physical education, were approaching a "critical point." If an upper limit of 60 percent were exceeded, he suggested that there would be no possibility of awarding further tenure unless vacancies were created by retirement or resignation.

Although there was informal discussion from time to time about the necessity or desirability of imposing tenure quotas, it did not become a matter of public debate until after 1970. Up to that time there had been occasional inquiries by individual faculty about their own status in relation to tenure. The provost, who was approached with increasing frequency about the likelihood of establishing a limit, assured them in 1970 that the trustees had made it "absolutely clear" that anyone eligible for tenure consideration would, at the appropriate time, "have their case judged on its merits." When the Committee on Tenure and Promotion drew up its first statement of criteria for tenure and promotion in the spring of 1970, they hinted that quotas might be necessary. There would be variations in application of criteria "because they must also be considered in relation to the distribution of the faculty members of various ranks (and tenure) within each department and within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences."

Debate over tenure ratios was accelerated, beginning in 1970-71, with announcement by the administration that its policy generally was to set an overall limit of about 60 percent. A department-by-department study was made that year which indicated that, of 254 Arts and Sciences faculty, 135 were tenured, with wide variations from one department to another. Of the twenty-seven departments, in only ten did the number of untenured faculty outnumber tenured members.

There was sufficient concern generated by the talk of possible tenure quotas to result in a resolution opposing such a system presented to the faculty in March 1971 and carried by a vote of almost 2 to 1. Hallowell, personally opposed to the stand of the faculty, presented the matter of quotas to the trustee Educational Policy Committee a few weeks later, but it took no action. Because the president still urged a definite limitation on the number of tenured personnel, the question was raised again in the fall of 1972. It was precipitated by the release of an elaborate study by a special committee of the local chapter of the AAUP entitled "Tenure Quotas at


Tufts, Path to Mediocrity." This was supplemented in the spring of 1973 with a projection prepared by an AAUP member of the tenure ratio from 1972-73 to 1999-2000, based on a mathematical model. Both documents comprised a strong statement against such a policy. Many of the faculty were convinced that a quota system actually existed, and a sense of general uneasiness pervaded the non-tenured faculty.

A resolution was passed by a large majority at a specially called faculty meeting asking that "the Tufts administration and Board of Trustees cease applying a tenure quota by any name, in faculty promotion decisions, and make an explicit statement to that effect." (The resolution was adopted by a vote of 84 to 9, with 20 abstentions.) In order to press their case, three representatives of the AAUP appeared before the trustee Educational Policy Committee in January 1973 to urge the complete rejection of a quota system.

The upshot of the debate over the entire question was the adoption by the trustees later in 1973 of a policy statement which was distributed to the entire faculty. The crux of the matter was to be found in the last sentence. "In order to insure the flexibility required to meet changing conditions and needs of the university, consideration should also be given to the ratio of tenured to non-tenured faculty in his/her department [or school]; provided, however, that such ratio shall not preclude the granting of tenure to exceptionally qualified persons." In short, no quota system as such was adopted either for a department or for the institution as a whole. The policy remained unchanged thereafter, although some members of the local AAUP chapter were disappointed that the trustees did not categorically reject the quota system in so many words. A review in 1975 indicated that 55 percent of the Arts and Sciences faculty were tenured - precisely the same percentage at the end of the Hallowell administration as at its beginning. The percentage had edged up slightly by the time Jean Mayer was elected to the presidency in 1976. (In 1976-77, 57 percent of the faculty of the entire university were tenured. In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 59 percent were tenured; 73 percent of the College of Engineering were tenured.) He emphatically insisted that no quota system existed at Tufts.

  • Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.
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 Title Page
1. Setting the Stage for the Second Century
2. Long-Range Planning
3. Bricks and Mortar 1952-1967
4. The End of Theological Education at Tufts
5. Ever-Widening Curricula for Liberal Arts and Engineering
6. Jackson College: A Search for Identity
7. Defining the Role of the College of Special Studies
8. The Arts and Sciences Faculty I
9. The Arts and Sciences Faculty II
10. The Central Library
11. The Changing Character of the Student Body
12. Fraternities and Sororities at Tufts: A Cyclical History
13. A Beehive of Activity: From Trustees to Students
14. From Wessell to Hallowell
15. The Hallowell Administration: Years of Trial and Tribulation
16. The Hallowell Administration: Continued Trial and Tribulation
17. Educational Ventures, Successful and Otherwise
18. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
19. Medical and Dental Education I
20. Medical and Dental Education II
21. Taking Stock of the University in the 1960s and 1970s
22. The Mayer Administration: A Preliminary View
23. The Mayer Administration: Consolidation and Expansion