The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

For example, Department Chairperson Richard Beeman, bound by confidentiality, is not permitted to give any explanation of the decision and can offer Root's supporters few assurances. "I'm proud of our promotion and tenure process and I'm proud of the way my colleagues have acted in past decisions," he said last week. Beeman, and many other administration and faculty members, maintain that confidentiality is essential if a department wishes to receive candid outside evaluations of tenure candidates. History Professor Robert Hartwell said he doubts the current level of confidentiality in tenure cases is necessary and feels it violates the constitutional rights of the candidates. "I just don't think the system works," Hartwell said. "It's based on the assumption that people will be responsible." He said confidentiality may permit subjective measures -- such as "collegiality and fit" or how a candidate gets along with the department's faculty -- to play too great a role in tenure decisions. "Overconfidentiality [may] lead to -- as I think it does in many cases -- to an overemphasis on collegiality and fit," Hartwell said. "[Albert] Einstein is a good example, because from what I hear he was quite a bastard, and [Sigmund] Freud, he was very weird -- [they] would never get tenure at this University." Students and colleagues have speculated that Root's troubles may have been due to personality conflicts with other faculty in the department, though they said they believe such criticisms are unwarranted. "I've always had an easy time dealing with Hilton," Public Policy's Campos said. "He's a bit blunt sometimes but he means no harm by it, and once you get to know Hilton you know it's just Hilton." School of Arts and Sciences Dean Hugo Sonnenschein said last week that department meetings, though confidential to those outside the department, help balance the risk that personal conflicts would affect a tenure decision. He added that the current level of confidentiality in tenure cases is not unreasonable. "I think we've got it about right," Sonnenschein said. "I think that what we essentially have is that we have reviews within the department that have to be made out loud as a group." · Part of Root's difficulties, students and friends say, may be caused by perceptions that he doesn't fit within the History Department's general mission, concerns that stem from the interdisciplinary nature of his research. Applying economic theory to derive explanation of French historical events not only combines elements of history and economics, but begins to enter the realms of sociology and political science as well. "One other thing about Hilton Root is that he is very well-trained in economic theory as well as economic history," said Emeritus History Professor Martin Wolfe, who retired from the History department post Root currently holds and contributed a supporting letter to Root's tenure file. "He is highly regarded by economist theorists as well as economic historians, and that's unusual." And Department Chairman Beeman said last week that the department understands the value of Root's work. "We considered [Root's] subject area important when we hired him, and there's really no reason to think we consider that subject area any less important today," Beeman said. "Departments constantly argue about studies in their choice of field," Beeman added. "I don't think the department does argue in this case." Yet, while Root has been unable to acquire tenure in the University's History department, his primary background as an historian and not an economist would restrict him from jobs in economics, according to Economics Department Chairperson Andrew Postlewaite. "In talking to historians in the past, they have a different set of indices as to what they consider to be important questions and what they consider to be the answers to those questions," Postlewaite said. Public Policy's Campos admitted that additional work in economics might provide Root with greater flexibility in any future job search, but added that such study might not be wise at this point in his life. "I guess if he were younger, ten years or five years younger, it might have been a good idea for him to get a PhD in econ, if that's what it takes to get into the Econ Department," Campos said. "But when you're in the prime of your career, the opportunity cost is just too high." Campos said he feels Root should consider jobs in political science, because the research methods are similar and political science departments are more flexible in their hiring. He said Root might be considering positions in sociology as well. Department and School officials downplay the effects of Root's tenure decision. Calling the University a "hot school" and the department one of the top five in the nation, several faculty and administrators said Root should have little problem finding a job elsewhere.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.