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To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
It was most distressing to read in the CRIMSON October 17th the explanation of my friend Professor Zeph Stewart, Master of Lowell House, as to why six Negro students were granted equal rights and authority with Faculty on the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies. Professor Stewart rightly remarks that this decision of the Faculty last April (a decision which ignored the guidelines of the Rosovsky Report) was made under a "peculiar set of circumstances." But he is mistaken as to the substance of those "peculiar circumstances."
It was not the so-called "certain expertise," as Paofessor Stewart puts it, of some black students in the field of Afro-American Studies but the open political threats of some militant extremists in the Harvard-Radcliffe Afro-American Students Association that determined the Faculty's decision to give six Negro students full faculty status on the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies.
I daresay that neither Professor Stewart nor any other member of the Harvard Faculty who voted to this decision can adduce evidence to show that any of the Negro students on the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies has acquired the qualifications which would warrant calling them "experts" or "scholars" in the field of Afro-American Studies. None of these students has, to my knowledge, a B.A., M.A., or Ph.D. degree; none has published a scholarly paper, article or essay in the social sciences and the humanities; none has held a teaching position in Afro-American Studies in an institution of higher education; and none has a record of a career practical activity relating to Negro affairs.
In short, the "certain expertise" that Professor Stewart attributes to the six Negro students on the governing body of the Department of Afro-American Studies ?s, to put it bluntly, non-existent! It is, therefore, rather disingenuous of those members of the Faculty who supported the decision to place students on the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies to continue rationalizing their action in terms of the "certain expertise" of these students.
Instead, they should face up to the fact that their decision was determined, at least in part (a large part, I think) by the political threats emanating from the extremist wing of the Harvard-Radcliffe Afro-American Students Association. This is not, of course, the first time that Harvard has made a major academic decision in face of political pressures of one sort or another. But this is what happened in regard to the composition of the Standing Committee on Afro-American Studies, and I wish that those responsbile for this decision (insofar as they voted for it on the floor of the Faculty Meeting) would cease their search for spurious and gratuitous explanations of their action.
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