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Monday, April 21, 2008

Harvard Div School names first Emerson UUA professor.

UU World interviews Dan McKanan, an historian of the religious left whom Harvard Divinity School has appointed the first Ralph Waldo Emerson UUA Senior Lecturer in Divinity. The endowed faculty position was funded by gifts from Unitarian Universalist organizations and individuals over twenty years. HDS announced the creation of the Emerson UUA chair two years ago, but redefined the position last fall; it's unclear to me whether a lectureship is effectively an assistant professorship, but I suspect it is.

McKanan currently teaches at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint Johnís University and has been coordinating Unitarian Universalist studies–related events at the American Academy of Religion for the past two years. Welcome to Cambridge, Dan!

Copyright © 2008 by Philocrites | Posted 21 April 2008 at 7:25 AM

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4 comments:

Jeff W.:

April 21, 2008 10:12 AM | Permalink for this comment

Hmmm, I announced this on my blog the other day, but it looks like I got the title wrong because I didn't call it a "Senior Lecturer." This is not a normal title, I suspect it doesn't really exist anywhere but at Harvard (or perhaps it is used a little more broadly at some divinity schools, as opposed to universities). It perhaps was applied in order to broaden (i.e. reduce the rigorousness of) the position when they had search troubles; luckily they ended up with a good scholar anyway.

Because it is non-standard, I can't really tell where it fits in the normal academic hierarchy. But Dan is already an associate professor and chair of his department. It is very unlikely that he'd accept a position that was the equivalent of an assistant professor. Rather, I think the "Senior" in the title has to be taken more seriously than the "Lecturer." Lecturer usually means an adjunct/non-tenure track position, the lowest position on the academic food chain (not counting graduate teaching assistants). Whereas senior is usually a high-level title, and in particular one doesn't create low-level named chairs, that's a contradiction in terms. So I'm assuming this is really equivalent to a full professor, not an assistant or associate professor.

Maybe Dan will surf by and clear this up for us. By the way, the link to the 2006 announcement is broken.

Philocrites:

April 21, 2008 10:22 AM | Permalink for this comment

Perhaps it's more like an associate professorship. Ann Braude is "senior lecturer on American religious history and director of the Women's Studies in Religion program"; Charles Hallisey is "senior lecturer on Buddhist studies"; Stephanie Paulsell was hired as "senior lecturer in ministry," but has since been named "Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies." I can't ever tell who has tenure, but I think these positions are all tenure-track.

Jeff W.:

April 21, 2008 11:16 AM | Permalink for this comment

Hard to say if they are tenured: Harvard has the worst, most arcane tenure system in the entire country. There's a good chance they are not tenured, even though they're senior people in their fields. Nowhere else would dare treat people the way Harvard does.

Elz:

April 22, 2008 05:15 PM | Permalink for this comment

Based on my experience with the previous Emerson-related search (resulting in the appointment of David D Hall, whose interests proved wider than ourselves) this title might have been put together to allow some honor and security and money for someone whose career is too young for Harvard's chair appointment process, but which, as previous commenters point out, is stellar in other universities.

It is possible that this title is a device to get someone through the very rigorous faculty-committee review process at Harvard. Folks who paid so many more dues themselves before they got their Harvard chair are unlikely to offer one to someone who offers "promise" in equal measure with published celebrity.

But then again, what do I know...? This time, nothing -- except that by whatever title, we are lucky to have Dan in this position. I do, however, stand by my statement that UU studies cannot possibly be handled fairly by anything less than a community of scholars based in and committed to our faith community. J.D. Bowers and Daniel Walker Howe prove that this commitment need not be in personal religios practice (Roman Catholic and Episcopalian respectively), while Paul Rasor proves that personal religious practice among us does not somehow poison effective scholarship.



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