Leading scholars from ethnic studies departments across the country will come to a conference at Harvard this weekend organized by about 15 student groups, but key Harvard administrators and faculty members have indicated they will not attend.
Dean of the Faculty Jeremy Knowles, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, Dean for Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell and President Neil L. Rudenstine have all declined invitations for the conference, according to Veronica S. Jung '97, the co-chair of the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) of the Harvard Foundation, which is sponsoring the conference.
Thomson Professor of Government Jorge Dominguez, the chair of Harvard's ad hoc committee on ethnic studies, and at least two of the six remaining members of that committee, will also not attend the conference. No one on the committee has indicated that they will attend the conference, according to Jung.
"I'm most disappointed because I feel this is a slap in the face and a delegitimization of the scholars who have taken the time to come here and are treated as if their fields are inconsequential to this campus," said Jennifer Ching '96, who handles administrative affairs for the Ethnic Studies Action Committee (ESAC), a cosponsor of the conference.
"The Academic Affairs Committee believes that it is important for the administration to be represented in what we hope to be a university-wide dialogue on race and ethnic studies at Harvard," Jung said. "An open informed dialogue cannot occur in the absence of knowledge about the actual content of this field."
As a result, the committee has sent follow up letters to administrators asking them to send representatives in their place.
Administrators and professors interviewed and they were not sending representatives.
"I am out of town until that evening, but I trust I shall hear about it," Knowles said.
Mary C. Waters, professor of sociology and a member of the Ethnic Studies Committee, said she would not be able to attend, but added, "I'm sure some of my students will be going and will tell me what happens."
Still a Success
Conference organizers said they thought the conference would still be a success.
Julie C. Kim '97, the co-chair of the AAC, said organizers are expecting around 150 students to attend the conference.
"I think the conference will still be successful if we have a large student turnout because one of the main purposes of the conference was to mobilize student support for getting more courses in ethnic studies at Harvard," Kim said.
Jung said organizers have invited many faculty members within the humanities and social sciences, are also trying to encourage faculty turnout.
"We are really hoping to attract faculty members who have in the past expressed an interest but admitted not knowing much about the field," Ching said.
"We are not sure of the level of faculty support on this issue at this point," Jung added, "but we are in need of advocates for a program in race and ethnic studies within the faculty."
She said the conference had been endorsed by Professor of Afro-American Studies Cornel R. West '72, Professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy K. Anthony Appiah and DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis Gates Jr.
However, none of them will attend the conference, she said.
Jung also emphasized that a recent resolution passed by the Undergraduate Council had given a boost to supporters of ethnic studies.
On Sunday, the council endorsed the effort to increase dialogue about Ethnic Studies, marking the first time that the council has identified comparative race and ethnic studies as "an academic concern of relevance and importance to the entire student body," Jung said.
The conference is also co-sponsored by the Minority Students Alliance, Education for Action, the Harvard Native American Program, the Asian American Association, the Black Men's Forum, Black Student Association, Korean Americans for Culture and Community, the South Asian Association, the Student Advisory Committee of the Harvard Foundation, the Harvard Phillipine Forum, the Progressive Action Network and the Undergraduate Council.
The conference will be held this Saturday at Harvard Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The conference will feature a keynote speech at 9:30 a.m. by Dr. Evelyn Hu-DeHart, the chair of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a panel discussion at 11 a.m. on "Ethnic Studies and the Challenge for the Academy for the 21st Century."
"This panel will address the history and development of ethnic studies at major research universities," Jung said. "The panel will also address the academic relevance of ethnic studies in university curriculums."
The afternoon will feature presentations by scholars of ethnic studies.
Other speakers at the conference include Carlos Munoz Jr., professor of Chicano studies at U.C. Berkeley; Ling-Chi Wang, chair of the Asian-American Studies Department and former chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at U.C. Berkeley; Patricia Hilden, professor of Native American Studies at U.C. Berkeley; Peter Kiang, an assistant professor at the Institute of Asian American Studies at UMass Boston; and Juliana Chang, assistant professor of English and American literature at Boston College