Afro's Proposals

"HARVARD is indeed a microcosm of American society," the Association of African and Afro-American Students said in a statement Monday. And Afro itself has given the Harvard community some sense of the grief, anger, and heightened zeal for rapid reform which Martin Luther King's death has aroused in black Americans. What Afro has done and said in the last few days leaves whites with a mixture of sympathy and consternation.

The first three of Afro's four proposals for Harvard criticize real faults here. An endowed chair for a black professor is not the only mechanism for getting more Negroes on the Faculty, but the University must hire a qualified black social scientist to fill a tenured position. A black man could have the background and experience to teach blacks (and whites) here what no presently tenured Faculty member can. And the University should recruit and train black graduate students, thereby increasing the number of young black Faculty members. Expressions of eager intent are no longer sufficient.

An HPC audit last fall chastized the History Department for its neglect of African History, and this hole in Harvard's curriculum cannot be left unplugged. Dean Ford conceded Wednesday that the University's African program has lagged behind regional studies of Latin America and the Middle East. This is an imbalance the Faculty must quickly correct.

AFRO'S final request, that Harvard "admit a number of Black students proportionate to our percentage of the population as a whole" is indefensible. Ethnic quotas are rightly repugnant to the University; it would make no sense to insist that Jews, Catholics, Italian Americans, and American Indians all be admitted in proportion to their percentage of the national population, and Negro admissions should not be reduced to this numbers game either. Harvard admission policies are the least legitimate target here for Afro's criticism. Harvard has aggressively sought Negro students for years (with recruiting help from Afro), and Dr. Chase Peterson, dean of admissions, indicated yesterday that the University will, as it must, become even more aggressive.

And the naked racism which Afro sees in the white response to what it terms "the legitimate and totally justified rebellion of our black brothers and sisters now occurring across the country," is, at best, dangerously simplistic analysis. As Robert Coles pointed out Monday, the troops sent into burning ghettos go to protect black property as well as white. Afro is justified too in its anger at whites, who abuse his memory with substanceless odes to his non-violent tactics. But for Afro to put its energies into developing a fighting spirit and charting the logistics of racial warfare would be useless.