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Black Studies and Power

On Strike


THE CENTRAL issue of this strike, as we see it, is the structure of the decision-making process at Harvard. We consider the present power-holders to be incompetent, illegitimate, and inimical to the interests of the Community and the University. therefore, we indict the President and Fellows of Harvard University. We challenge the right and the competence of the Harvard Corporation and its administration to continue making vital decisions without the full participation of Faculty, students and, where applicable, the greater community. Specifically, we challenge the Corporation and its administration to defend and explain the following representative actions and conditions.

On Wednesday, April 7, a communique, released by the standing Faculty Community on Afro-American Studies, outlined a structure for the Afro-American Studies program. In a meeting held for potential concentrators in the field that night, two sectionmen, one from Social Sciences 5 and one from Economics 1, stated that the program for the next year would conform to the structure described in the communique. A telephone call be an officer of Afro Friday morning to Daniel Fox, assistant professor of History, and member of the standing Faculty Committee, substantiated that statement. Fox did mention that the program would be changed, but only vaguely intimated when such changes would be implemented.

Afro responded with justified anger. The old plan was quickly scrapped, and a new "second draft" of the program was drawn up and released. The contents of both drafts have been well-publicized. The basic difference between the two is that the first proposal was completely inadequate, a travesty of the idea of an academic department, while the second was simply unsatisfactory. Under the first plan one could major in Afro-American Studeis only in theory; in reality, one would major in Government, or History, or Physics for that matter, and minor in Afro-American Studies. The second program, drawn from the model of combined fields like the Social Studies Department, is unacceptable because it does not allow for generation of courses--a specific recommendation of the Rosovsky Report. This point of view has been reiterated by the black students since May of 1968.

BUT THAT the intended programs are unsatisfactory is not our central concern, nor that of the black students association (although the very fact that the programs were changed so quickly raises serious doubts as to the sincerity of the standing Faculty Committee's proposals). The issue raised here would have been raised in any event. This is the issue of irresponsible use of power. The decision-making process has been misused, the pact of the Rosovsky Report has been violated. these are the central issues. The standing Faculty Committee cannot plead ignorance or that they misunderstood their function. The action they took is clearly illegitimate.

The underpinning of Afro's stance is the conclusion of Section II of the Rosovsky Report--the section dealing with Afro-American Studies at Harvard. (Needless to say, we consider African Studies to be an integral component of any Afro-American Studies program, and we exclude it from discussion only because our competence in the field is limited.) Concluding this chapter is a list of 17 recommendations concerned with the establishment and continuance of Afro-American Studies. These recommendations were accepted by the Faculty on February 11. The action of the standing Faculty Committee--their disregard for the terms of the Rosovsky Report--is a damning illustration of the misuse of the decision-making process in this University.

The first recommendation of Section II's conclusion is to establish a "standing Faculty Committee on Afro-American Studies and budgeting of funds to implement the program-development activities outlined." The second recommendation authorizes the standing Faculty Committee to "... consult with the President concerning the appointment, possibly as a University Professor, of a distinguished scholar deeply concerned with Afro-American Studies and identified with the black American experience and community. The person appointed... should be invited to assume the Chairmanship of the Afro-American Studies Committee."

From this one might assume that the standing Faculty Committee is indeed operating according to the terms of the Rosovsky Report. But such is not the case. The term "committee" is used in three different instances in the first two recommendations. Each time the word is used it denotes a different and sequential structure.

The standing Faculty Committee was to be officially authorized to select a chairman for the Afro-American Studies program. According to an explicit agreement between the Rosovsky Committee, the representatives of Afro, and the standing Faculty Committee-an agreement made before February 11--a Search Committee was to be formed with the power to select a chairman of the Afro American Studies program.

The Search Committee, comprised of three Faculty members and three representatives from Afro, was agreed upon because the standing Faculty Committee did not consider themselves sufficiently competent in the field of Afro-American Studies to decide on the selection of a chairman of that field. Another reason for the creation of the Search Committee was to give students a direct input to the decision-making processes of the program from the very beginning.

With the selection of a chairman of the Afro-American Studies program, a new committee will come into existence: the Afro-American Studies Committee. This body will not be a continuation of the standing Faculty Committee, or the Search Committee. Those committees will have accomplished their objective: there will no longer be any reason for their existence.

The Afro-American Studies Committee will then plot the structure and substance of the course. Chaired by the director of the Afro-American Studies program, the Committee will include Faculty from the program, and receive inputs from Afro and the concentrators in the field. There will also be a Governing Board chaired by the Director of the program and including concentrators, Faculty, and representatives of Afro. Although this Board will be a voting body, the exact extent and nature of its final powers cannot at this time be defined. Recommendations four through seventeen of the Rosovsky Report encompass structural details of the program and need not be repeated here.

AT THIS TIME, Afro is proposing a program. This act is justified by the spirit and words of the Rosovsky Report. The Afro program is tentative and completely negotiable, but only among members of the Afro-American Studies Committee's Governing Board.

Thus the second draft of the standing Faculty Committee has no validity because that Committee itself has no legitimacy. Further even than this, why did the Standing Committee violate the guidelines of the Rosovsky Report without consulting that group which had a clear, vested interest in the success of the program? The answer lies in the fact that black students are looked upon as a resource, rather than as a constituency, and thus are to be contemptuously manipulated rather than openly consulted and dealt with.

THE ADMINISTRATION'S attitude toward the black students can be inferred from the genesis of the Afro-American Studies program. But what of its attitude toward the students in general?

Only with great reluctance and in extraordinary circumstances does the Administration permit any direct dialogue between representatives of students and the assembled Faculty. It is especially important to note that the least satisfied students and their representatives are those the Administration keeps most isolated from any potential dialogue with or support from the Faculty.

Joint Student-Faculty Committees are not allowed to do more than discuss issues and make recommendations.

Within the departments, there is no continuing mechanism for Faculty-student dialogue.

We could continue, but the picture is more than clear. Students are not so much a constituency, force, and raison d'etre of the University as a resource of the Corporation, to be manipulated to its own advantage. Only the Corporation and its Administration will have any meaningful say in the affairs of the University and it shall be the final arbiter of the interests of both the students and the Faculty. The Corporation has not the slightest intention of allowing its power and perceptions to be questioned, or of allowing its goals for the University to be challenged.

We do definitely question the programs, the conduct, the responsibility, and the legitimacy of the Corporation. Its members have consistently failed the standards of good faith, truth, openness, and dedication to the bettermen of their fellow men on which every university, let alone this one, must be founded.

Harvard University is now and always will be as much the property of its student body as of the Corporation. We must no longer tolerate from the Corporation such callous and irresponsible conduct, conduct inimical to the interests of every segment of the University community, as well as the broader external community. More than this, we cannot allow any recurrences of this conduct. Even if the Corporation were to make a complete about face on its policies at this very moment, there would be no guarantee that these policies would not be resumed again tomorrow. Experience has shown that we can no longer have any faith in the judgement, responsibility, and human concern of the Corporation. The three-hundred-year tradition of mutual respect and trust within the University has been thoroughly destroyed for us by the duplicity and contempt shown to us in the matter of the Afro-American Studies Program, and by the unnecessary, reprehensible violence initiated by the Administration on April 10th. Only when students have a strong and permanent voice in the highest policy-making apparatus of the University will we again feel the smallest particle of faith in the integrity of the University.

To this end wish to affirm our complete support for the program endorsed by Afro, and the striking teaching fellows. We herewith state and affirm our intention not to rest until these demands are met, and urge all students who wish to prevent a recurrence of the present crisis as well as the continuation of Harvard's present irresponsibility to join us until these goals are achieved. LEE A. DANIELS   CLYDE E. LINDSAY

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