LINGUIST List 4.857

Mon 18 Oct 1993

Disc: Harvard Linguistics

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  1. , Warren Goldfarb and Harvard linguistics
  2. , Harvard linguistics

Message 1: Warren Goldfarb and Harvard linguistics

Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 11:40:55 -0Warren Goldfarb and Harvard linguistics
From: <>
Subject: Warren Goldfarb and Harvard linguistics

I would like to try and clear up some of the misunderstandings caused by my
last post. The statements about Warren Goldfarb seemed to be the worst

"We in the department have very good reason to believe that this decision
is purely political. For example, Professor of Philosophy Warren Goldfarb,
who is chair of the abovementioned Advisory Committee, is a disciple of
Hillary Putnam (one of Noam Chomsky's sworn enemies), and is widely known
to hate the field of linguistics."

First, I had hoped it was clear these are not my own personal statements, but
rather come from a general consensus of the undergradutes in the department.
Concerns about the factual content of these statements, or the entire post,
should be addressed to Joel Derfner at

Second, we in no way question Warren Goldfarb's integrity as a person or a
scholar. What we question is the appropriateness of his being chair of a
committee controlling the fate of Harvard's linguistics department, since he
disagrees with so much of what is taught there. We also question the motives
of the administration in allowing him to remain as chair. It appears to us
undergraduates that the Advisory Committee is more a formality for the
administration than an actual attempt to examine how linguistics can best be
taught at Harvard.

Third, as people have been correct to point out, the wording of these
statements is too strong. I must apologize for that; emotions have been
running high, to say the least, and tact has sometimes fallen by the wayside.

I hope that this has cleared up at least some of the misunderstandings. We
(and I personally) truly want to avoid adding unnecessarily to the
combative feelings which have been stirred up by the administration's
high-handed dealings with the linguistics department.

 --Mark Kille

Once more, please, address factual concerns to:
 Joel Derfner (
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Message 2: Harvard linguistics

Date: Wed, 13 Oct 93 12:18:38 -0Harvard linguistics
From: <>
Subject: Harvard linguistics

 During the week of October 4, I asked Mark Kille to post a letter
from Christoph Wolff and a short message. Although at the time I thought
I understood the facts of the situation completely, I've found out some
things since then and am now less sure of my understanding of the facts.
Because I may have spoken with an incomplete understanding of the
situation, I retract my statements about Professors Goldfarb and Putnam
and apologize to them. I also want to make it clear that I and not Mark
Kille wrote the message that was tagged onto the end of Dean Wolff's letter.

 Nevertheless, I think that the fate of linguistics at Harvard is
not certain. On October 13 at 9:15 in the morning I spoke to Christoph
Wolff, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, who said,
"theoretical linguistics . . . will form the backbone of whatever program
we have" and "there will be appointments in theoretical linguistics." (It
was clear that by theoretical linguistics he meant generative
linguistics.) However, on October 7 at 10:20 in the morning I spoke to
Lawrence Buell, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and said, "I'm scared
that, if this happens, generative linguistics will have no place at
Harvard." He said, "That doesn't necessarily follow, but it might."

 Again, I apologize for statements I made with what may not have
been a full knowledge of the facts. To the people who have been
supportive of us so far, thank you very much, and I hope that my having
spoken rashly will not prevent you from continuing to support us.

 Yours truly,

 Joel Derfner
 Harvard Class of '95
 187 Adams Mail Center
 Cambridge MA 02138-5004
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