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Big Step Nowhere

ONLY A FEW weeks ago, the University submitted to the Federal government a new and purportedly improved affirmative action proposal, its latest in a series of attempts to meet Uncle Sam's requirement for non-discriminatory hiring. But Harvard doesn't learn. So after another year and nearly a quarter of a million dollars, Harvard's proposal, replete with the prescribed utilization analysis, and its goals and timetables for hiring more women and minority group members, appears to be in jeopardy.

Judging from the Nixon Administration's past performances, the standards of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare cannot be so stringent that this University cannot fulfill the requirements. And Harvard has never maintained, at least publicly, that it considers the HEW standards unreasonable. Instead, Harvard has repeatedly answered the HEW requirements with the most minimal programs clothed in even more numerous policy statements of commitment to nondiscrimination and equal employment.

So Harvard's latest bungle in the affirmative action mess should come as no surprise. The Administration once again is attempting to palm off a plan that falls far short of any real demonstration of commitment to the policies it has no trouble verbalizing.

The unambitious goals and timetables submitted in the latest program call for an increase of .5 per cent over the next two years in the number of women holding full professorships and an increase of .4 per cent in the number of minority group members with the same position. In the lecturer category, the University will "strive" to increase the number of women by 1 per cent and the number of minority group members by a generous .4 per cent.

Furthermore, the University is bending over backwards just as strenuously in its recruiting of teaching fellows. We can expect to see an increase of only .6 per cent in the number of women teaching fellows and of .3 per cent in the number of minority group members given these appointments. As dismal as these targets seem, the planned increases in the numbers of women and minority teaching fellows are even more meaningless than the token increases proposed for faculty hiring. Since, according to Harvard's proposal, there is a 100 per cent turnover in teaching fellow appointments every year -- as opposed to the handful of faculty positions that open up annually -- increases in the numbers of women and minority teaching fellows could easily be far more substantial.

Of course, the University has only distributed publicly an abridged edition of the document it submitted to HEW for approval. And although the school is not required by governmental directive to divulge the contents of its plan to its students or faculties until the plan is accepted by HEW, Harvard surely has nothing to lose by making all of its plans available to concerned groups.

Failure of the University to comply with HEW standards regarding recruitment and hiring of women and minority group members could cost Harvard all of its Federal contracts, about one-third of its total income. And in an era when every institution cries about depleted revenues, Harvard has an obligation to think twice the next time HEW rejects its affirmative action proposal, and the University is forced to spend another quarter of a million dollars to draft an acceptable plan.

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