In her article on the newly appointed housemasters, Laura L. Krug ’06 writes that “the appointments will not diversify the current pool of masters,” citing Professor Lani Guinier as the “only minority candidate” ( News, “Three House Masters Named,” April 17). As the first Orthodox Jewish House Master, Professor Jay Harris is breaking a very significant barrier, in addition to being among the very first Jewish House Masters appointed.
Being part of a group that comprises roughly two percent of the American population, Harris is indeed a minority. His appointment as housemaster of Cabot House is a milestone in the history of this University, which historically has intensely discriminated against Jews. The first Jew to be a professor at Harvard was reportedly forced to convert to Christianity in order to be appointed, and when Jews finally began to be admitted to the college under harsh admission quotas, they were consistantly barred from full College participation.
Only over the past thirty years or so, due to important work by Jewish students, faculty and religious leaders, has the University become a home for Jewish students. Although it would have been wonderful and momentous to have Professor Guinier, a powerhouse academic and activist in her own right, as a housemaster, we must not overlook the significance of Harris’s appointment in the diversification of Harvard College’s House system.
Julia Appel ’04
April 17, 2003