Leonard Critical of Decrease In Minority Student Enrollment
"Don't let my voice be the last to be heard. Continue to change things," Walter J. Leonard, special assistant to President Bok, told approximately 100 people Saturday night at a testimonial dinner sponsored by the Mather House Black Table.
Leonard will assume the presidency of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at the end of this term.
Leonard, Harvard's affirmative action officer, said he regrets that the number of black students at Harvard has decreased, especially in the graduate schools, since his arrival in 1969.
The Kennedy School of Government "has not yet reached respectability" and the Graduate School of Design "must come out of the Victorian era and into the 20th century" in the area of black student enrollment, Leonard added.
"Year after year I still see barriers to progress. I don't understand how an institution so rich, so endowed, and so blessed can be so calloused," he said.
Leonard described three levels of racial involvement at Harvard. "There are bigots, we know who they are and how to deal with them; liberals, we thank God for them; and those who think they are liberals. They are more dangerous than the bigots," he said.
Those who think they are liberals "will do all in their power to help me gain entry to someone else's school or job," Leonard said. "They will say it's not genetics that make black folks inferior, it's environment. But the bottom line is the same," he said.
At a reception at Mather's junior common room following the dinner, Leonard discussed the importance of maintaining black universities.
"There's an assumption that white institutions have their doors so wide open that there's no reason to keep black institutions afloat," he said, and added that 65 per cent of all master's degrees conferred upon black people in the United States are from black universities.
"If you destroy the black churches and black institutions you'll rob black people of their culture," he said to students at the reception. "That's why I'm preserving Fisk, so you can come down and visit your roots," he added.