OUT OF THE 1969 political upheaval at Harvard, the University under pressure from black students, founded a department of Afro-American Studies. At that time the Faculty also drew up a prospectus for an institute that would provide a center for faculty and student research in Afro-American studies. The Institute's director was to have a chair in the Afro Department.
This plan has yet to be implemented and the University is backing down from its commitment to the DuBois Institute. The present plan before President Bok, submitted by the advisory committee on the proposed Institute, is devoid of the more specific programs that would make the institute a source for those doing Afro-American research at Harvard. The most critical point in the plan is that the Institute would be under the aegis of the President and Fellows of the University, and would be operated by a tenured faculty member who may or may not affiliate himself, and thus the Institute, with the Afro Department. If established in this fashion, the Institute would have no definite responsibilities to the Afro Department, and depending on the director's discretion, could or could not be available for use by that department.
Walter J. Leonard, assistant to President Bok and chairman of the advisory committee, said last week that the Institute's first director may implement recommendations of groups such as the United Committee for Third World Organizations. But more importantly, the director may disregard any Afro Department requests. Since the Afro Department has a history of minimal faculty support, failure to make explicit the Institute's formal relationship to the Afro Department would frustrate the Afro Department's attempts to sanction programs through the Institute. If formal connections with Institute and the Afro Department were reinstated in the plan, the Afro Department would be in a better position to reap the full benefits of the Institute's resources.
Opponents of the proposal ask that no action be taken on the Institute until their objections have been negotiated with President Bok. Meanwhile, the University is putting into gear its slow-moving bureaucratic machinery and has begun soliciting funds for the Institute. Fund-raising should begin now because the black community needs a center for research, regardless of administrative conflicts. Approaching potential donors does not inhibit the possibility of much-needed changes in the report. For the Afro Department to fulfill its potential, Harvard should establish the DuBois Institute but should insure that a formal relationship between the Institute and the Afro Department is set up.