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With the departure of Walter J. Leonard, special assistant to President Bok, to Fisk University, Harvard will bid farewell to its staunchest supporter of affirmative action. In his years at the University, Leonard has set the tone for minority education both here and throughout the country by working toward increasing the number of minorities and women in every area of the University. During his short tenure at the Harvard Law School, from 1969 to 1971, not only did the minority and female enrollment there increase tremendously, but the morale of these students rose accordingly.
At the University level, Leonard has persistently scored academic departments and faculties for passive or outright non-implementation of affirmative action guidelines, and has pushed the University to assume a more conscientious attitude toward the guidelines of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In addition, he has carefully balanced his loyalties to the administration and minorities and has had enormous behind-the-scenes influence. His close ties to Bok have enabled him to accomplish far more than his defined duties indicate.
In this context, it will be extremely difficult to find a replacement for Leonard. Without ready access to Bok, the new affirmative action officer might have difficulty enforcing the letter and the spirit of the guidelines. And at a time when not only Harvard academics, but, less blatantly. President Bok, appear to be abandoning advocacy of the government plan, and active support of Leonard, this seems especially true.
While Leonard's ideals have remained high, the actual progress made during his tenure has not been striking. From 1971, when Leonard assumed his current Mass Hall post, to 1975, the number of tenured women professors throughout the University rose from six to 18, and the number of minority professors with tenure rose from 23 to 40. The total number of tenured professors at the University rose from 719 to 790 during the same period. These figures indicate that while some advances have been made, one outspoken administrator can not easily achieve his aims without the active support of the University.
With this in mind, it is necessary for the University to permit student participation in selection of the new officer to ensure that Leonard's replacement will be as outspoken and determined as his or her predecessors. In addition, a re-evaluation of the officer's role and powers is in order, to make certain that a person without Leonard's connections and respect within the University is nonetheless able to effect needed changes.
Fisk University is fortunate to have Leonard as its president at a time when private black universities are increasing in importance but struggling to maintain themselves financially. Leonard will bring to Fisk the devotion, spirit and diligence necessary to ensure its continued success.
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