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Good News And Bad News


By Nicholas Lemann

At a press conference this week to announce the formation of a student task force to improve Harvard's implementation of its affirmative action program, William Fletcher '76 talked about "this University's practice of discrimination."

Three days later, this University released a progress report on affirmative action here, with figures that, the report said, "reveal growth for women and minorities in almost all major categories."

The two views may not seem particularly reconcilable, but they actually have more in common than they appear to. The student group that announced its formation this week did not complain about the work of Walter J. Leonard, Harvard chief affirmative action officer and the main architect of the University's affirmative action progress report.

Instead, group members said a report Leonard issued last spring about his disappointment at the progress of affirmative action here was part of the impetus for its founding.

So rather than spend its time attacking Leonard, the task force is more likely to work on specific areas of the University where it has objections to the conduct of affirmative action.

As things stand now, no one would deny either that some progress has been made or that a great deal more is needed. Harvard has substantially increased its number of women over the past few years, but women's representation is still far below 50 per cent in non-clerical jobs.

Harvard's percentages of minorities have increased and are above the percentages of the local labor pool, but the University still has fallen short of its goals for minority non-teaching staff.

The way change often comes about in affirmative action is through pressure, and Leonard will keep applying it, subtly, while the new task force works in a more public and demonstrative vein.

Representation of women and minorities is growing slowest in tenured professorships.

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