Anthropology professor Linda-Anne Rebhun will leave Yale at the end of this year, becoming the fourth professor expected to leave the department.
The Tenure Appointments Committee for the social sciences denied Rebhun tenure last week, rejecting the Department of Anthropology’s recommendation. The program is also likely to lose three other professors — one senior and two junior faculty members — from Rebhun’s subfield, sociocultural anthropology.
Anthropology professor David Watts said he does not know why the tenure committee overruled the department’s endorsement. But in general, the committee might decline to give someone tenure if members believe there are more outstanding scholars in the field, he said.
“It could be that the operating principle is that Yale should hire the best people out there, whether they are already at Yale or anywhere else in the world,” Watts said.
Kathryn Dudley, director of graduate studies for the anthropology department, said Rebhun has made valuable contributions to the program during her 11 years at the University.
“Certainly, she is someone whose contributions to teaching and the community we are going to miss,” Dudley said.
Rebhun, who is on a leave of absence this semester, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Anthropology associate professor Eric Worby and senior professor Thomas Blom Hansen will also be leaving Yale this year to teach at universities overseas. It is unclear whether anthropology professor David Graeber will return to teach at Yale next year; he has appealed the University’s decision not to renew his contract.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey declined to comment on specific personnel issues, but he said the turnover in the anthropology department this year is not irregular. The majority of junior faculty at Yale are not tenured by the University, and Worby and Hansen chose to leave for personal reasons, Salovey said.
“I would call that a bit of bad luck,” Salovey said. “These are very personal reasons why people are choosing to leave, and that’s a bit hard to predict.”
Anthropology chair Andrew Hill said the department is in the very early stages of a search to replace Worby, and they are preparing to start a search for a senior scholar to replace Hansen.
The anthropology department will be adding a new faculty member, Duana Fulwilly, in July 2006, Provost Andrew Hamilton said in an e-mail to graduate students who expressed concerns about the turnover. Three additional searches for anthropology professors unrelated to this year’s departures, are also underway.
“There’s also been some new hiring in anthropology in recent years, and there will be more,” Salovey said.
But Ajay Gandhi GRD ’09, one of Hansen’s advisees, said he thinks the provost’s response does not adequately address students’ concerns, especially those who are losing advisers and members of their dissertation committees.
“At the departmental level, I think that there is a great degree of opacity and confusion about what each of our individual cases might be,” he said.
Dudley said she already met with all of Rebhun’s advisees to discuss future plans. The University allows departed faculty to serve as a student’s primary adviser for two years, and Rebhun has agreed to continue working with her students, Dudley said.
“There are other members of the faculty that stand ready to advise and help them,” she said.
Watts said he is concerned that turnover in the department may deter undergraduates from majoring in anthropology.
Rebhun’s tenure review began last year, Watts said, but it was extended because the hiring committee did not reach a decision. To give the committee time to complete its work, Rebhun was hired for one additional year past the end of her 10-year contract, which expired this past spring.