AT THE START of October, shortly after the announcement that Walter J. Leonard, the University's affirmative action officer, had been offered the presidency of Fisk University, members of the Task Force on Affirmative Action called for a role in the search for his successor. They reiterated their position later in October, in a letter to President Bok requesting that the task force be permitted to play a key role. But Bok responded in November, stating that he would welcome only informal student advice.
In this context, it was hardly surprising last week when Bok announced the four-person search committee with no student members. The task force responded not with surprise, but with anger, and restated its demand for student and employee participation in the search, as well as influence in the enforcement of affirmative action guidelines.
It is reprehensible that Bok did not see fit to include students, or at least one student representative, on the search committee. The person whom the committee chooses will ostensibly be selected to defend the same interests as the task force itself, and its participation in the selection would ensure a working relationship with students. It is not as if they are tangentially related to the work the new affirmative action officer will perform--the officer will be directly responsible for their interests.
In addition, with the task force justifiably pressing for greater say in formulating the definition of the officer's role, they should be permitted to screen potential officers. Unfortunately, it is not yet certain that Bok will allow students the input into the officer's daily activities that they demand. To date the task force has not received official University recognition, and has been stifled in attempting to explain its perceptions of Harvard's affirmative action failings. As long as the University has nothing to hide in relation to its affirmative action compliance, it is hard to understand why Bok refuses to permit more than informal, and therefore virtually no, input from students.