Letter From an Irate Latina

Querida Mama,

It's Junior Parents' Weekend. I wish you were here so that I could show you Harvard. I still think it's funny that you receive invitations to come to visit me for a weekend like Junior Parent's Weekend when we both know that you may not even be able to afford to come up for my graduation. You have to realize that the invitation is aimed at wealtheir families or at least those families that live nearby. If you could visit, we would have a great time. I don't think you would like it that much, but maybe you would understand why I'm always complaining.

I expect that the majority of the parents of the Junior Class can afford to come up for a weekend. Their kids, of course, take it for granted. I know it makes you said to be reminded of how far away I am, but whoever came up with this idea wanted to make everyone feel better about Harvard. From a student's point of view, they need to try harder. From a minority student's point of view they need to try a hell of a lot harder.

Institutionally, Harvard does not understand or support people like us. Besides, they only wants to impress parents who might make donations. Remember, I told you it's cold up here.

Maybe I should have listened to you and gone to Stanford instead. They do have more administrative support for minority activities. They even have a house called Casa Zapata for the Latinos and the undergraduate Latino population is larger than it is here. I can hardly imagine having enough Latinos in an upper-class house to be a significant presence, let alone enough to fill a whole dorm!

Of course, if there were to be enough Latinos in one house to fill a table, people would be alarmed. We would be seen as separatist for wanting to associate with people who make us comfortable. We would be penalized for sitting with people who understand where we come from and, most importantly, who do not question our ability. The Black students are already accused of this. It's always the Black tables that are noticed, not the jock table, not the preppy table. Perhaps they're a more conspicuous group. Or maybe it's because they're louder in their criticism of Harvard.

Of course, all people of color on this campus have a reason to be loud. Remember when I showed you the admission catalogues and we found that Minority Perspectives booklet? Remember it listed many minority student activities? In reality, the student groups are used as a "hook and bait" to attract more minorities. Once we're here we are on our own. An organization's survival depends on highly motivated students, not on University support.

Harvard's celebrated diversity only applies to students. The lack of diversity within the Faculty and the Administration shows where Harvard's priorities are. Or area't. Faculty diversity only becomes an issue when students make it an issue. I know you don't like all the demonstrations I've been involved in, but there is a feeling among students of color that if we do not do something no one else will.

If you were here you would be marginally impressed by the itinerary for the Junior Parents Weekend. Why, you might look at the diversity panels and think that Harvard cared about diversity in the curriculum or the community. But don't worry, not a single concrete solution will come out of these discussions. They're strictly for show. Harvard can't even do that right, either. The planners of these events neglected to invite a single Asian American representative, who make up 20 percent of the undergraduate population.

It seems that the administrators here only worry if we (the students of color) start to get loud. I even think they're afraid of us! Can you imagine that, Harvard administrators afraid of a few vocal minority students? As you always say, if they have done nothing wrong they should have nothing to fear.

I once spoke to the Dean of Chicano Affairs at Yale, who told me to hang in there when I complained about Harvard. An administrator at Stanford told me the same thing. Eventually, she said, Harvard would come around and offer more support for minority students.

I hate to complain to you about these things. It seems that my letters are nothing but a list of grievances. I do not hate Harvard all of the time. It's just that sometimes I wonder if it is worth all the hardship. Oh, well, it's the price I have to pay for my Harvard degree; I just wish the price wasn't so high for students of color.

Junior Parent's Weekend is supposed to make you feel good about Harvard. When it comes diversity they need to try a hell of a lot harder. Con amor,   Vero