Berkeley Didn’t Have to Look Outside Anthropology Department for Interim Chair

To the Editor:

There are a few basic clarifications to make to “Can a Historian Head Berkeley’s Anthropologists? Department Is Split Over Interim Chair” (The Chronicle, May 31). The claim that appointing an interim chair from outside the department is “routine” is belied by the fact that in the often contentious and outspoken 100-year history of the anthropology department, it has never happened before.

The administration’s explanation that no other candidates were available to serve as interim chair is not credible: A senior member of the department who was chair twice previously was available and willing to serve as interim chair for one year. He was not consulted. That same person had just been entrusted with heading a search committee and had carried the search to successful completion through consensus building. Thus claims of major and irremediable factions and irreparable collective antagonisms in the department are not true. It may be the case that not everyone would have voted for that person, but that excuse applies as well to the administration’s decision to appoint an outside chair. Certainly no one voted on that move.

We are witnessing a general bureaucrat-driven disenfranchisement, in line with modes of intervention elsewhere in America. That this can happen with little or no transparent debate even at as prestigious an institution as the University of Californiat at Berkeley is symptomatic and a warning sign.

Paul Rabinow
Professor of Anthropology
Laura Nader
Professor of Anthropology
University of California
Berkeley, Calif.

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