New Cultural Initiative 'Promising'
The proposal—which has been signed by over 30 faculty members from throughout the University—was submitted to the Provost’s office at the end of last week by Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, chair of the Inter-Faculty Committee on Latino Studies at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.
While Suarez-Orozco described the proposal as a “confidential memorandum,” he said it asks for resources dedicated to teaching, research, conferences and student support.
“What has been submitted is an extraordinarily ambitious proposal that will bring Harvard to the forefront of research that is of major relevance,” Suarez-Orozco said.
He said he hopes to hear from Hyman within the next few weeks but was not sure how the Provost would go about reviewing the proposal.
“This is a new Provost who will put new structures in place and it is not clear how he will go about this,” Suarez-Orozco said.
According to Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Alan J. Stone, Hyman plans to start reviewing the proposal soon.
“Especially since I am not an expert on these issues, I will ask several faculty members to read and comment on the proposal,” Hyman wrote in an e-mail.
Suarez-Orozco and his colleagues were invited by Hyman to draft a proposal for an inter-faculty initiative addressing globalization after meeting with him in January.
The initial reason for that meeting was to discuss the pending proposal for a Center for Latino Studies, which was submitted to University President Lawrence H. Summers last June. Summers has not issued a formal response to the proposal.
The new proposal differs from the old one in that it seeks to look not only at the effects of Latino American immigration but that of other ethnic groups as well.
“This proposal has emerged as part of ongoing conversations with the Provost and broadens and amplifies previous discussions,” Suarez-Orozco said.
John H. Coatsworth, chair of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, said about half the professors who have signed on to the initiative are specialists in Latin American or Latino studies, thus making it likely that the new initiative will have an “indirect” relationship with the existing David Rockefeller Center.
And Suarez-Orozco said there is widespread support among the faculty behind the initiative.
“Many senior faculty members are excited about the profundity of the demographic changes that are taking place in this country,” he said.
Yesterday, student advocates for Latino studies also presented Hyman with a letter signed by over 100 members of the Harvard community requesting a Latino studies department and an increase in number of faculty and courses in the field.
Students said the letter was received much more positively yesterday than it was when presented to Summers in March.
“I was glad to see that we were able to engage in a meaningful dialogue with a member of the administration,” said RAZA President Maribel Hernandez ’04. “For the first time we felt respected by the administration.”
Hyman’s response to the letter was that a department was unlikely due to the lack of “critical mass of scholars.” But he told the students that many of their aims could be achieved by taking matters into their own hands and talking to department heads.
“Going to the faculty would have been the next step anyway, but it is nice to know that he is reinforcing what we are doing,” Hernandez said
Other students echoed the positive nature of the meeting.
“The Provost understands that our efforts are not about receiving privileges [for Latino students] but instead about achieving high quality teaching and research at this university,” said Luis S. Hernandez, a Divinity School student and co-chair of Concilio Latino.
—Staff writer Jessica E. Vascellaro can be reached at email@example.com.