Pushing Onward for Change
It has been two weeks since a coalition formed out of a North House meeting of minority student leaders. This week, the coalition got a crash course on Harvard bureaucracy when it had a series of meetings with a phalanx of Harvard administrators: President Neil L. Rudenstine one day, Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell the next, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and others yesterday. After all the meetings, though, the coalition has seen no substantive results and members say they want to make sure their demands are ultimately met.
It all started with a flyer titled "The Peculiar Institution."
Only two weeks old, the upstart alliance of about 20 student minority organization leaders has protested the lack of diversity at a Junior Parents' Weekend panel, issued a catalog of demands ranging from curricular diversity to increased resources for minorities and christened itself the "Coalition for Diversity."
And in the past week alone, the coalition--which says it represents several hundreds of minority students on campus--has managed to send top Harvard officials scrambling to arrange meetings, reevaluate the curriculum and review race relations policy.
The flurry of responses, however, has not yielded any official statement of support from an administrator. Officials have yet to hammer out any concrete plans to resolve the five issues the coalition has brought to the three meetings with a total of a five officials this week.
The coalition has called for greater faculty diversity and an increased focus on ethnic studies in the curriculum. It has demanded that the University hold a town meeting for administrators and students to discuss race relations.
The group is also asking for the creation of a minority student resource center and a University statement apologizing for the controversial statements by Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53 that linked grade inflation to the increase in Black enrollment in the 1960s.
Most of all, perhaps, the coalition wants to insure that its demands are more than simply heard.
"There's often a whole wave of activity, and then when it dies down, the administration forgets about it like usual," Richard Garcia '95, the coalition's spokesperson, said earlier this week. "We want to set up something so the administration will discuss things with the coalition everyday."
The coalition has had a battery of meetings with top officials, discussing its demands Monday with President Neil L. Rudenstine, Wednesday with Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell and yesterday with a consortium of deans headed by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles.
According to the Garcia, Rudenstine pledged to give the group a statement of response and called his meeting with the coalition a "thoughtful and very constructive conversation."
According to students at the meeting with Buell, the dean accepted the legitmacy of ethnic studies as a field of study and was receptive to trying to "institutionalize" ethnic studies.
But the students added they did not think he'd take any more action than bringing the topic to the attention of the administration for discussion.
Knowles called yesterday's breakfast meeting "a very helpful discussion" at which he "learned a lot." He said the University must examine the time and financial constraints in establishing an ethnic studies concentration.
Julia M. Reyes '95, president of La O. said she was skeptical of Knowles' responsiveness and doubted the administration will take any substantive action.
Perhaps the most sunbstantive statement of support for the coalition's demands came Wednesday from an administrator who has not even met with the coalition. Provost Jerry R. Green said ethnic studies deserved a place in the curriculum and registered the strongest criticism of Mansfield's comments to date by a senior University official.
The series of meetings with administrators, however, has shown no substantive results, coalition members said.
And though the alliance of minority organizations is pleased with the progress it has made, members are reserved in speaking of the advances they have made in the past two weeks.
"I don't think things will just turn around," said Reyes. "This struggle is not any different from any struggle in the past except that we are a little more organized and straightforward with our demands."
Garcia said the group will not be pacified by a few meetings or a few words of administrative support. "We will be satisfied when we see that things are really going to be done, that the wheels are turning and that the administration begins to deal with the problem,' Garcia said.