Harvard Still Short Of Diversity Goals

News Feature

As the University winds up a plan launched in 1988 to promote diversity in its faculty and staff, officials express disappointment about their progress.

According to the 1993 report, the University today has still not achieved many of the goals it set in 1988 at the beginning of the five-year plan.

And officials say it's difficult to explain why Harvard seems to repeatedly fall short in competing with other schools for top minority and women scholars. "I don't know why our performance is as it is," says James S. Hoyte '65, assistant to the president and associate vice president for affirmative action. "Harvard ought to be in the forefront."

Though Harvard has been ranked first in academic excellence in national rankings and touts the diversity of its student body, its performance in hiring minority and female faculty and scholars, measured against 18 comparable institutions, has been only average. "We're probably more like the middle of the pack on the minority front, and I'd say probably a little better on the women front," says Hoyte of Harvard's ranking in tenured faculty.

For non-tenured faculty, Harvard is "about the mean" in its representation of women, and for minority professors, the University ranks "kind of low," he says.

Though the University sets aggressive affirmative action goals, officials say the policy may not have teeth.

Officials say they cannot enforce hiring goals at Harvard's schools. In fact, there is no institutionalized mechanism to hold schools accountable on the issue of diversity in faculty hiring.

"I don't think any affirmative action offices, wherever they may lie, have enforcement capabilities," Hoyte says.

"I believe that the power of persuasion, and an ability to be helpful and supportive where appropriate, as well as an ability to jawbone if necessary," are the methods such offices use, he says.

Faculty hiring initiatives come from individual schools and within the schools, departmental faculty search committees. Hoyte, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and even President Neil L. Rudenstine cannot force any faculty committee to meet the University's goals.

And Da 'aga C. Hill, director of the affirmative action program, says despite the federal government's interest in Harvard's affirmative action efforts, the University is also not strictly accountable to the government for fulfilling its goals, which she distinguishes from enforced quotas.

"Quotas are generally court-imposed because [an organization] has been found to be discriminating," she says. "Goals are voluntary efforts to reach certain targets by certain dates."

Hoyte says he doesn't think the lack of a central authority over Harvard's affirmative action efforts is a problem. The nature of Harvard's administrative system makes it impossible and undesirable for any central authority to have such power over faculty hiring decisions, he says.

Up to the Schools

The importance of individual schools' programs then comes to the forefront as the crucible for progress. While Hoyte says he would not support quotas imposed from above by the administration on the schools, he suggests a system of financial rewards for departments that exceed the goals could be one option.

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