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The Afro Studies Review

Brass Tacks

By Douglas E. Schoen

TWO OF HARVARD'S black professors have been in direct conflict since the establishment of the Afro-American Studies Review Committee last October, Ewart Guinier '33, the chairman of the Afro-American Studies Department and Martin Kilson, professor of Government, have tried to influence the committee in opposite directions regarding its recommendations to the Faculty on the future of Afro-American Studies.

Guinier would like more freedom than he now has in running the department. He wants to have a greater hand in picking tenured faculty members and in initiating new curriculum. He feels that the Department has carried out the recommendations of the Rosovsky Committee--which made the initial suggestions to the Faculty on Afro-American Studies in 1969--and that it is as much progress as could be expected after three years.

Guinier was upset over the decision to set up a Review Committee from outside the University. He had hoped that the review--which was mandated by the Faculty legislation which created the Department--could have been done quietly within the University without any controversy. Guinier withheld comment on the Committee until he met with them in late December and early January.

Initially, Guinier described his meetings with the committee as being little more than "social gatherings." The chairman of the Review Committee, Wade H. McCree, disagreed with Guinier and said that he felt the meetings were quite productive. Evidently, Guinier did not find these sessions favorable to him; otherwise it is unlikely he would have criticized the Committee.

In February Guinier also spoke out against the Administration's actions in setting up the Review Committee. Twice Guinier charged that Dean Dunlop and President Bok had acted improperly in setting up the Committee. He criticized them for ignoring the Faculty in implementing the review.

GUINIER hoped that these criticisms would gain him support from black students within the University. He felt that by portraying the Review Committee as being illegally constituted by an insensitive administration, he would be able to rally student support should an unfavorable report be handed down. Guinier never attacked the Faculty which, he views as an ally of the Department. In 1969 liberal members of the Faculty provided the votes necessary to create the Department over what Guinier has said were the strong objections of the Administration.

Guinier's position as chairman of the Department is also in jeapardy this year. It is a tradition at Harvard--though not a formal rule--that department chairmanships are rotated among members of a department every three years. Guinier's three years as chairman end with this academic year. It is possible that because of the unique structure of the Department--where the chairman has virtually dictatorial powers--and because of its lack of tenured faculty, Dean Dunlop might allow Guinier to remain as chairman, though other departments have lecturers or assistant professors as chairmen. Guinier wants to create a situation where his removal as chairman would be seen by black students as a weakening of Harvard's commitment to Afro-American Studies.

To help create that situation, Guinier mailed out, throughout the University last week a draft of a memorandum written by two lecturers in the Department on the review procedure. In the memorandum, the lecturers, who got their jobs through Guinier, devote a paragraph to discussing his administrative abilities and the reasons why he should be allowed to continue as chairman. They conclude by saying that "changing chairmen in the same way that departments that have been established for several hundreds of years would seem not in Afro-American Studies best interest."

Guinier's donation of $500 to the Pan African Liberation Committee also must be seen in the context of the Afro-American Studies review. There can be no question that Guinier felt very deeply about Harvard divesting itself of its Gulf stock. He also probably felt compelled by his position as chairman of the highly politicized Afro-American Studies Department to take some sort of action. Yet be taking the action publicly and by criticizing the Administration for historically being on the "negative" side of efforts to improve the lives of black people, Guinier again labelled the Administration as being insensitive and put himself in the position to again pick up the support of black students should he need it. As a former politician in New York Guinier is aware that if you publicly aid a group when they are in trouble, they are likely to come to your assistance when you need help, especially if the issues involved in both cases are portrayed as being similar.

KILSON HAS BEEN just as active as Guinier over the past year. As soon as the Review Committee was established, Kilson began meeting frequently with his allies, Dean Epps and Orlando Patterson, professor of Sociology. They decided that rather than making any public pronouncement about the Department they would write memoranda which they would submit to the Committee and then circulate as widely as possible. By circulating these memoranda, Kilson feels he can take away the base of Guinier's support on the Faculty--white liberal members.

Kilson believes that white liberals in 1969 submitted to pressures from militant black students to create an inferior program. He hopes by circulating the nine memoranda which his group has produced throughout the University that white liberals will recognize the supposed inferiority of the present Department and vote to make substantial revisions in its administration and structure.

Kilson would like to see the Department completely overhauled and made a joint concentration with an established discipline like History or Sociology or Government. He has asked that joint appointments be made between Afro-American Studies and other departments.

Like Guinier, Kilson has also sought to polarize the community over the Afro-American Studies review. His criticisms of the Department have been unmerciful and he has had absolutely nothing good to say about any aspect of the program. Kilson has missed no opportunity over the past couple of years in criticizing anyone who has taken a public position in support of the Department or of black militancy in any form. He has written numerous letters to the Crimson and has written extensively for outside publications on the subject. Even though Kilson said that "I can live with Afro-American Studies if no changes are made," his actions this year indicate he would be living in considerable discomfort.

The Review Committee met last weekend to consider a draft of its final report. Kilson concluded his efforts to influence the Review Committee two months ago and can now only wait to see its report. Guinier is likely to continue trying to lobby among black students in the event that he needs their help to preserve the department and his position.

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