The peace from a relatively quiet year in campus race relations was disturbed last May when students picketed the Freshman Dean's Office, protesting the decision to with draw University support for minority and women's activities during Freshman Week But while the immediate issue sparking the outburst was the events it soon became clear that broader issues lay under the surface. The demonstrations led to more general complaints about University policy such as the veto of the Third World Center, and insufficient minority professors and administrators which add up to a feeling on the part of some minority students that Harvard simply does not care about them.
The strongest opposition to University policies on minority issues has traditionally come from Blacks-- a discontent that may be prompting fewer Black students to register at all. The number of Black students accepting Harvard's offer of admission has dropped sharply in recent years, falling from 73 percent to 53 percent over the past three classes.
While enrollment of other minority groups has increased or remained stable they all joined with Black undergraduates to form a Third World Alliance last spring.
Among the priorities for the alliance this fall is to strengthen the Harvard Foundation an administrative office created to improve campus race relations in lieu of a Third World Center Many minority students have opposed the Foundation and several Black student groups actually boycotted the office last fall Nevertheless, other minority groups have worked with the office which handed out more than $15,000 in funding last year.
Minority issues also flared up at the Law School last year where minority students protested the small number of minority faculty members. The first, and most publicized outburst came when Black law students group decided to boycott a civil rights course taught by two prominent civil rights professors chagrin that the course should be led by a tenture-track minority professor And in the spring 40 students staged a demonstration outside the deans office to demand that the University hire a Black Law professor passed over by the school's tenure committee.
Although the number of women admitted to the College continues to rise--a record 43 percent of the incoming class is female--many women undergraduates say Harvard offers them only a second-class citizenship.
Under the merger/nonmerger agreement signed in 1977, Radcliffe College abdicated control of undergraduate life on a day-by-day basis, leaving most policy decisions on women's issues in the hands of Harvard administrators. And women activists, largely under the auspices of the all-female student government, the Radcliffe Union of Students, have frequently voiced their dissatisfaction with administration sensitivity to women's concerns.
Traditional sticking points have been the low number of women administrators and tenured faculty, Harvard's largely nonexistent women's studies program and University policy on sexual harassment.
In the wake of a widely publicized harassment case involving a woman undergraduate and a visiting professor, the University last year reviewed its sexual harassment policy. After a year of debate in the Faculty Council, Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky issued an open letter defining harassment and outlining "unacceptable" faculty conduct. While pleased with the University's first major acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue, RUS leaders say the College must still outline specific penalties for harassers, and stream-line the complaint process for victims.
This fall, the College will take up another longstanding women's issue--women's studies. Harvard has steadfastly rejected proposals for a separate women's studies department, instead insisting that those courses should be integrated into all the departments. Although several students have petitioned to concentrate in women's studies as a special concentration, none of these requests have been granted.
Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky has approved in principle a joint-tenure position in women's studies and another, probably in the social sciences. The Faculty Council will determine the specifics this fall.
For the last decade, the manner in which Harvard invests its large endowment has continued to be a source of controversy on campus. Student activists have been continually attacked the University's investments in American companies that have business interests in the apartheid country of South Africa. These divestiture advocates argue the that University should sell its stock in those companies in those companies both for moral reasons and as a symbolic message against the apartheid regime. However, President Bok has defended the University's policy, saying that Harvard can most effectively fight apartheid by maintaining a shareholder's voice in those companies with interests there and that the University owns such a small percentage of the total company stock that selling it would not make that big a difference.