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Although this week's "painters' helper" protest has concentrated on one specific issue, the charges of "University racism" that the protest has spawned-are sure to raise larger questions concerning Harvard's performance as an employer of minority groups.
In dealing with the paint-crew issue. University officials have often lacked the facts they needed to answer a student's detailed questions. At Tuesday's press conference, for example, the directors of the Personnel and Buildings-and-Grounds departments admitted that they could not answer some of the specific charges the students made.
On more general questions, however, the University has built up a substantial body of evidence to document its policy and record.
The most recent pronouncement came on November 3, when the Corporation adopted a formal statement on equal-employment hiring.
The statement outlined the administration's responsibility for overseeing various parts of its fair-hiring programs, and it emphasized "the need for continuing and expanding positive programs which will assure the strengthening" of policies of "non-discri-mination and equal-employment opportunity."
There was little startling news in the statement. As John B. Butler, director of Personnel, said, it "put together on one piece of paper what had been the common law of the University. It stated the broad policies succinctly."
According to the statement's last paragraph, the reason for publicizing the University policy was "so that each member of the community will understand its importance and their individual responsibility to contribute toward its maximum fulfillment."
Many administrators agree that the statement's main purpose was to put maximum emphasis on a policy Harvard feels is important.
But some officials say there may have been another factor in the timing and exact wording of the statement: Harvard's desire to avoid any difficulties with Federal civil rights regulations.
Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 11246, all groups receiving Federal funds-including universities with Federal research contracts-must prove to the government that their employment policies guarantee equal opportunities for minority groups.
Until last June, each university had its performance reviewed by the agency that provided the largest research grant. For Harvard, that meant the Atomic Energy Commission.
Over the summer, there was a general reorganization of the civil rights compliance system. Under the new arrangement, all universities must make their equal-employment reports to the Department of Health. Education and Welfare.
At the same time. there was an important semantic change in the equal-employment guidelines universities have to follow. Instead of the old regulation-which required the university to correct immediately any problem that appeared-the new guideline says the university must have "affirmative action" programs to promote minority hiring.
Several large universities-including Princeton, M.I.T., and Yale-have learned in the last few months that HEW is serious about the clause. Each of them received a letter from HEW asking for evidence of "affirmative action" before Federal contracts would be renewed.
Harvard has not received a letter, but its Electron Accelerator contract is up for renewal soon. The Corporation's statement should eliminate any troubles with the government: a contract compliance officer in HEW said last week that the statement "appears to satisfy all our requirements."
The University must also report each April on the number of minority workers it hires. The charts Harvard sends in-which are broken down by employment level as well as by race-help clear up some of the current confusion over just how many black workers Harvard employs.
In its report last winter, the Wilson Committee said that "three per cent of the University's 13,000 workers are black." Ever since then, several groups have cited the figure as evidence of Harvard's failure.
Technically, the statistic is correct. The updated figures from last April show that ?82 (about 3.5 per cent) of 13,559 Harvard employees are black.
Butler and the Personnel office, however, say that the figure is misleading because it combines Faculty members-who are nearly all white-with the rest of the University's employees.
Of the 13,559 total Harvard employees, more than half-7281-are members of some faculty. As of last April, only 60 of them are black. When the whole faculty group is taken away from the hiring charts, the results look more encouraging for the Personnel office: there are 6278 employees, of which 422 (about 6.7 per cent) are black.
At Tuesday's press conference, Butler said that the statistics have improved since last April's count and that Harvard now has "well over 500" black employees-more than double the number four years ago.
But after pointing out the recent rise, Butler said "this is not enough. It is where we are now, a point from which progress can be continued."
The Corporation touched on the same issue in its statement, saying that the Deans and the Administrative Vice President "will assist department heads in implementing existing and new efforts" in minority hiring.
The most important of these "new efforts" is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, called "MA-5." The program, which is also sponsored by the National Association of Businessmen, will give the University money to:
bring in "hard-core disadvantaged unemployed persons" from the community and train them for "permanent employment in meaningful occupations";
and train a limited number of Harvard employees for promotion to better jobs.
The Personnel office is still working on details of its MA-5 program and does not know how big its grant finally will be. But a Personnel officer estimated yesterday that about 85 people from the community and 25 current Harvard employees might go through the training. Under MA-5 rules, the number of "upgraded" current employees cannot be more than 30 per cent of the number of community people trained.
According to the Personnel officer, who asked not to be identified, most of the people in the MA-5 program will be black or from the Spanish-speaking areas of Cambridge. He added that Harvard has set up contacts with community job training organizations in Boston and Cambridge and will work with them in finding trainees for MA-5 and other programs.
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