Harvard's Affirmative Action Plan: Slow Progress for Women, Blacks

In 1929, Eleanor Glueck accepted a research post at the Law School. In 1969, she held the same post.

When Eleanor Glueck and her husband Sheldon, both distinguished academics and co-authors of several books, were hired by the Law School in 1929, no women held tenured professorships at Harvard University. The Law School offered Sheldon Glueck a position as assistant professor. His wife became a research assistant. Both gladly accepted.

In 1969, six years after Sheldon Glueck, Pound Professor of Law, had retired from his prestigious chair the Faculty of Arts and Sciences still had not offered tenure to any women. Eleanor Glueck was a research associate at the Law School.

It was not until the Federal government began pressuring Harvard to end its discriminatory hiring in 1970 that women and blacks began to ascend to the higher rungs of the academic ladder. Under the executive orders issued in 1970 and 1972 Harvard, like thousands of others schools, businesses and other institutions employing one-third of the nation's labor force, could lose their Federal contracts if they fail to devise acceptable "affirmative action" plans for correcting discriminatory employment policies. Federal contracts comprise nearly one-third of Harvard's annual income--about $60 million last year.

Always money conscious, Harvard has responded to the pressure. When Eleanor Glueck--still a lecturer--died last year, 14 women and 29 minority group members held tenure. The University has spent between $50,000 and $250,000 in the past two years drawing up three unsuccessful affirmative action plans and one that is now pending revision. Few examples of unfair treatment of women or minority group members are as blatant as that of the Gluecks. Harvard claimed in 1940, as it does today, that the University hires only the "best person in the world" to fill each faculty position. If blacks or women did not hold high positions, it must have been that they were not qualified. In the case of women, perhaps their feminine timidity or child-rearing responsibilities kept them from producing the books required for most full professorships. The blame was with the employee, not the University.

Subjective factors in the past have cloaked discriminatory hiring decisions. Civil rights lawsuits were thus usually ineffectual without evidence of obvious patterns of discrimination against women and black applicants.


In order to unmask these patterns, the affirmative action would require employers to conduct an extensive analysis of all jobs, hiring procedures and policies within the institution. If this analysis uncovers patterns of discrimination, the university must change its policies, enlarge its search procedures and initiate training programs. In addition, the institution must set goals and timetables for placing women and minorities in jobs from which they have previously been unfairly excluded. The program forces the employer to find and examine its own possible hiring biases. He can no longer say "Well, they just weren't qualified."

Harvard this Spring completed its "utilization analysis" of faculty and administrative jobs. Not surprisingly, the University found that women and minority group members were underrepresented in higher faculty and administrative posts.

"While there has been an increase over the past three years in the number of minority and women professors at Harvard, the numbers still remain small," Harvard admitted in the report it sent to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare May 1.

As part of its plan, the University will now treat maternity leave as part of sick leave, granting women time off with pay as long as they have not used up their yearly quota of days off. The University has also initiated a new grievance procedure, begun giving part-time appointments with tenure, opened up search procedures, and set target figures for hiring women and minorities in faculty and administrative positions.

In spite of the progress being made on procedural matters, the University's numerical goals are extremely modest, and in some areas even regressive.

In their affirmative action plan, the University states that the University will concentrate on junior faculty positions since "in this way, faculties can develop a group of proven ability to be promoted from within to more senior positions." Yet the goals actually project a decrease of four women assistant professors--the lowest ladder position--for next year, despite an overall increase of 31 such positions and although 109 of these posts will be available between now and 1975.

In many cases, the figures are misleading, making it appear as if women and minorities are permeating traditionally male fields when, in reality, these people are segregated in positions specifically related to women or minority affairs.

The figures sent to HEW show that four of the 17 full deans in the University are female, and project that the one post opening up will go to a woman. This is less impressive when one notes that the four women deans are affiliated with the Radcliffe structure, and the one dean position opening up in the University is one which Matina Horner has just created, Radcliffe dean of admissions, financial aid and women's education. A woman will fill that post.

Just as Radcliffe is a ghetto of opportunity for women, so special faculty appointments for people teaching Indian Affairs or Black Studies create specialized openings for minority group members while the traditional fields remain closed. The Ed School projections call for an increase of three minority lecturers. At the same time, that school is creating two new faculty positions: an urban professorship and a faculty adviser for the American Indian Program.

Unlike Eleanor Glueck, the women now employed by the University are no longer passively accepting unfair treatment. Women at Harvard filed at least two charges of sex discrimination with HEW this year: Franziska Hosken claimed she was unfairly denied consideration for a position at the Graduate School of Design, and a group of women law school students submitted a long list of charges including claims of discriminatory admissions and financial aid policies.