Brass Tacks: Racial Bias And Harvard College

In matters of civil rights, racial and religious discrimination, the University has always supposed that its posture is one of unquestioned morality. When issues of bias have arisen they have been summarily dismissed as the consequences of misunderstanding, never concerns of intent, neglect, or a lack of diligence in the pursuit of ideals which are presumably Harvard's.

But questions of discrimination continue to recur only to be answered by embarrassing silences or official statements which leave some doubt as to the intensity of Harvard's feeling for social equality.

The most persistent problems of this sort are those of employment and housing.

At frequent intervals, it has been suggested that certain of the landlords on the University's off-campus housing lists will not provide quarters for foreign students, in some instances, and for Negroes in others. The University has made no pronounced public effort to eliminate this discrimination and apparently feels that the responsibility for ferreting out the offenders rests with the foreign students or Negroes themselves.

The question of discrimination in employment practices came most prominently into public view last summer when the Federal government requested information regarding the number of minority group members regularly employed by the University. At first, University officials objected to the inquiry complaining that to compile such a list would be "surreptitious, unhealthy, and repugnant to the dignity of the individual." When the President's Commission on Equal Employment Opportunities rejected the protest, insisting that the University follow the rules applying to all institutions receiving government contracts, the list was produced and sent to Washington.


The University now refuses to make public the figures which were compiled and dismisses the issue as "a very delicate matter." Whether the University will admit it or not, it is apparent that the Negroes employed here are either very small in number or generally out of sight. "Speaking off the record," one University official confides, "I am in favor of hiring Negroes." The fact that an administrator would be unwilling to make such a statement publicly intimates that, if Harvard is not dying of hypocrisy, the confusion of its bureaucratic sprawl is paralyzing it.

The case against the University is not so much a suspicion of racial bias as a failure to make it clear that Harvard is enthusiastically committed to the cradication of ethnic discrimination and the institution of social equality. In the recent dispute between the Harvard Club of Dallas and the Debate Council, there was never an official condemnation of the alumni position and, in fact, the first of the University's sentiments was "the Dallas Club has a right to its opinion." That this opinion, for all public purposes, had virtually become the policy of the University, was apparently no matter

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