Committee grants four professors tenure

A committee voted to grant tenure to four professors and to promote a fifth to full professor Thursday afternoon.

Eric Sargis of anthropology, Udo Schwarz of mechanical engineering, Brian Scassellati of computer science and Ruth Blake of geology and geophysics were all granted tenure at a meeting of the Board of Permanent Officers, composed of full professors in Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Richard Bribiescas of the anthropology department, who was already tenured, was promoted from associate professor to full professor.

“It’s heartening to see so many internal promotions,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, praising Yale’s new tenure system, which is currently in a transition phase. “People are starting to come up for promotion earlier than before and everyone will be considered, whereas in the past there were not necessarily resources sufficient for them to be considered.”

Sargis and Bribiescas, who are both members of the anthropology department, were called “innovative teachers” in an e-mail from anthropology chair William Kelly on Thursday.

Sargis has researched the structural relationship between tree shrews and humans, as well as the evolutionary morphology of certain species of monkeys and marsupials. He is an associate curator of mammalogy at the Peabody Museum of Natural History and received his doctorate from the City University of New York.

Bribiescas is interested in human evolutionary physiology, particularly males and male hormones, and runs a reproductive ecology laboratory affiliated with the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies. The Harvard University Press will soon be publishing his book, “Mammals: The Evolution and Life History of the Human Male.”

“Macho makes you sick,” Miller described one faculty member as saying during the committee’s meeting, encapsulating Bribiescas’ findings on the health effects of testosterone.

In computer science, Scassellati is “the robot guy,” Miller said. Known as “Scaz” to his colleagues, he created a robot with the intelligence of a 6-month old infant, intended to interact with autistic children . His research uses robots and computational methods to evaluate models of social skills acquisition by infants.

Schwarz, who researches the nano-scale properties of surfaces, said because the tenure process lasts for over a year, his appointment today put him at ease.

“You feel a great relief that your hard work over all the years (and it is a lot of hard work!) paid off,” Schwarz wrote in an e-mail.

Schwarz received his doctorate from the University in Basel and previously was a visiting senior scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Geology and geophysics professor Ruth Blake examines phosphorus and phosphates as indicators of life.

“She was one of the people to demonstrate that there is not and was not life on Mars,” Miller said.

At the committee’s last meeting on March 4, members voted to grant tenure to Jessica Brantley, a professor of English.


  • Anonymous

    So by my reckoning, this year the University has granted tenure to:

    2 Geology/Geophysics professors
    1 MCDB professor
    1 Mechanical Engineering professor
    1 Computer Science professor
    1 Anthropology professor (in biological anthropology, which is as much natural science as social science)
    and 1 English professor.

    Remind me how the new tenure policy is supposed to reduce "brain drain" in the humanities (, again?

    I understand that Yale has made a commitment to beef up the sciences, but plenty of departments in the humanities and social sciences are populated largely by junior faculty who don't stay at Yale as long as the undergrads they teach. I could forgive a ratio slightly tilted toward science and engineering, but this seems excessive.

  • Other Univ Prof

    What is the percentage of Yale professors receiving tenure under the new system? It would be of interest to know how many professors are denied tenure at the same time (I am not interested in the specific names).

  • Hieronymus

    @#1 Well, there are only so many ways you can queer Shakespeare or lionize Brazilian brothel poetry…

    English (at least the *serious* study of great literature) is dead at Yale, and will take a reformation (or renaissance)--and a generation--to resurrect.

    I recommend The Politically Incorrect Guide to English Literature to see what we've been missing.

  • Y '09

    @#1, why don't you also look at how many tenured professors there were in the humanities departments BEFORE the new policy took effect? If there are a lot of tenured professors in the department already, I bet they're less likely to approve more unless interest in the major expands dramatically, which it has not been.

    Also, humanities/social science departments have visiting professors more often than science departments (it's hard to pack up a research lab and go elsewhere for 1-2 years), which may be why it seems a lot of "junior" professors leave after not getting tenure.

  • Y oh Y

    Or it could be that Yale is finally admitting that junior English PhDs have jumped the shark.

  • @#3

    What universe do you live in? Yale English dept. as the place of "PC English"?! Yale English is the most painfully traditional English department in the world. If there is an English Department which still believes that there is great literature out there, it would have to be Yale English. Just look how many courses they teach on Milton (and believe me, this is not "PC Milton")!
    I can't believe you would seriously rely on "The Politically Incorrect Guide to English Literature". That book is the most naive and incompetent of all conservative attacks on modern academia. The women clearly doesn't have a clue. I mean, I am the first one to cry foul when somebody starts assailing a 17th century writer from a standpoint of some contemporary ideological agenda, but her understanding of this problem is just ridiculous. The semi-literate Glen Beck would have done it better! I don't mind if someone has a problem with certain aspects or certain strains of contemporary theory, but what she professes is just plain anti-intellectualism. For instance, according to the author, for three hundred years critics were in agreement about Shakespeare, and then came "theory" (which she equates with deconstruction) and made a mess. This shows that she has no clue about 1)history of Shakespeare criticism, 2) history of criticism in general, and 3) development of contemporary theory. Also, note that among her dangerous "PC" professors, the wast majority comprises of people from, let's say, not very prestigious universities.
    So please, get real about Yale English, and also about English literature in general.

  • Hieronymus


    Hit a nerve, did we?

  • @Hieronymus

    Hieronymus, I wish you had hit a nerve. I really do. I would like Yale English to be a site of some ideological intervention. It's not. So, I am just annoyed by your ignorance.