Affirmative Action Troubles


The report by the Standing Committee on Women released this week showed a startling gap in admissions acceptances and financial aid between men and women and pointed out that Harvard has a long way to go towards eliminating sexual inequities.

And glaringly contradictory perceptions by administrators and faculty of Federal affirmative action requirements may help to explain why these inequities persist.

Despite the supposedly pervasive pressures to end discrimination against women, at least 11 departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences now accept and give aid to a lower percentage of women applicants than they did five years ago, the Committee on Women reported in a memorandum to department chairmen.

The memo singled out six departments--Fine Arts, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Music, English, Mathematics and Anthropology--as demonstrating a clear and continuing pattern of inequality.

The Committee obtained no proof that the discrepancies resulted from overt discrimination, but a Committee study done two years ago found no differences between the economic needs or academic performance of graduate men and women at Harvard.


The chairmen of these departments do not seem to be able to explain the phenomenon, at least not for the record.

"We deal with people by their last name and don't know whether they're male, female or bisexual," Sydney J. Freedberg '36, chairman of the Fine Arts Department said. The study found that his department accepted men about twice as often and granted 30 per cent more of their scholarship requests.

The same department chairmen also seem to have received contradictory information on hiring policy from the different parts of the Administration.

Walter J. Leonard, assistant to the President and the chief officer for affirmative action in the University, maintains that the larger faculties--presumably including the largest, Arts and Sciences--must set target figures for the hiring of women and minority group members by department.

According to several Administration sources, Dean Dunlop did almost all the target projections before leaving Harvard in January, although the figures will not be made public until late April.

Several chairmen of large departments said last week they had never been asked for any information which might help determine these target figures. Not one chairman said he had been told that these figures were being set for departments at all.

Members of the Graduate Women's Organization alleged Wednesday that the dean's office made its own figures for many departments.

Winifred Barad, equal employment officer in the office of the dean, would not say how she and Dunlop arrived at their target figures.

President Bok sent a memo to the deans late last semester instructing them how to set the goals and timetables. Reliable sources say that the instructions were sufficiently ambiguous so that the targets could have been set by department or by the Faculty as a whole in Arts and Sciences.

Leonard confirmed that the goals and timetables for some of the faculties needed further explanation.