Twelve Student Groups Form Affirmative Action Coalition

Spokesmen for 12 Harvard-Radcliffe organizations of women and minority students announced yesterday the formation of a task force to improve the University's implementation of its affirmative action plan, which they said has been largely neglected during the past three years.

"Over the past few years the separate struggles of women, oppressed nationalities, and other progressive forces have convinced many activists of the need to unite around our common interests in opposing this University's practice of discrimination," William Fletcher '76, a task force co-ordinator, said in a press conference at Philips Brooks House yesterday.

"We are prepared to take action both in the form of political pressure and in the form of legal complaint to achieve the goal of equality," Fletcher, who is also known as Qassem, said.

Fletcher said yesterday that the decision of the 12 groups to form the Task Force for Affirmative Action reflects "widespread disappointment" in the University's failure to fulfill its September, 1973 projections for increased employment and recruitment of women and minority students and faculty.

Ruth Colker '78, task force co-coordinator, said yesterday that impetus for the joint task force resulted largely from a report to the University made last spring by Walter J. Leonard, assistant to President Bok, who criticized Harvard's lack of progress in fulfilling HEW requirements.

"Not only have we not progressed a great deal since October 1971--both statistically and attitudinally--but I fear we have moved backward from that date in a number of areas," Leonard, who is Harvard's coordinator for affirmative action, said in his report.

Harvard's October 1973 affirmative action plan projects a 1.5 per cent increase by 1976 in the percentage of tenured faculty who are women, from two per cent to 3.5 per cent, and a smaller increase in the percentage of minority faculty.

As of last spring the proportion of tenured blacks had declined since October 1973 from 1.6 per cent to 1.4 per cent and women constituted three per cent of the University's tenured faculty, members of the task force said yesterday.

Leonard yesterday gave President Bok a report on the most recent affirmative action developments, but did not release specific statistics, although he said that there had been some increase in the number of women and minority faculty since last spring.

Bok said yesterday he would release the statistics in the few days.

"I have seen some activity in a number of spheres," Leonard said yesterday. But he added, "I don't believe my general opinion of affirmative action here has changed since the spring."

Colker said yesterday that the creation of the task force reflects a desire on the part of its 12 member organizations to pool their resources and data, and to prevent administrators from "playing one organization off against another."

"Every organization has received vague promises which have not been fulfilled," Colker said yesterday. "And at times we have almost fought against one another."

Fletcher said yesterday that the task force's initial actions would involve publicizing the force, and that the possibility of taking legal action will not be discussed until task force members see how the administration reacts.

"The University has known for a long time that we exist, but only now are we an official organization," he said. "Our plans are contingent upon how the administration reacts. We shouldn't jump the gun."

The task force's press release lists 19 separate objections to the present affirmative action plan and its implementation, listing employment and recruitment, the lack of student input, and the University's failure to support local and national affirmative action programs.

Task force member organizations include Organization for the Solidarity of Third World Students, the Radcliffe Union of Students, the Chicano Law Students Organization, La Organizacion, H-R coalition of Asian Americans, February 1st Movement, Women's Law Association, R-H New american Movement, H-R La Raza, R-H Women's Center, Law Students Asian coalition and the School of Design's student hiring committee