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In November 1973, the federal government accepted Harvard's affirmative action plan and ended a three-year, $250,000 effort by the University to meet federal requirements for a non-discriminatory hiring program.
Included in that plan were goals and timetables through 1976 for the hiring of women and minorities in numerous areas of the University. Last week, Harvard released an update to that original plan, the Revised Affirmative Action Plan and Status Report, evaluating progress of the last three years and listing new goals and timetables. The report indicated that little progress has been made since 1973, with continued underutilization of women and minorities still in evidence in the faculty tenure ranks.
In addition, the percentage of black students in several of the University's graduate schools has declined, the report indicates.
Release of the report drew varied responses this week. Members of the Task Force on Affirmative Action claimed it indicates a "retreat from a real commitment" to such programs.
On the other hand, Phyllis Keller, equal employment officer for the Faculty, defended the report's findings, saying the proportion of newly-hired women and minorities has been much greater than their proportion in the applicant pool.
With varying interpretations of the statistics, perhaps the clearest statement in the report is the continued need for tremendous effort and changing attitudes on the part of the University.
Since the 1973 report, Walter J. Leonard, the University's affirmative action officer, has criticized both departments and the University administration for continued foot-dragging in implementing affirmative action plans.
His statement, coupled with the report's findings, indicate that while the University may be in the clear legally--it is able to show it has made an adequate effort to increase the representation of women and minorities in all areas of the University--nevertheless there is room for a great deal of improvement.
With the future of the federal affirmative action program somewhat in doubt--it is facing heavy scrutiny both at the judicial level and within the administering Department of Health, Education and Welfare--the statistics suggest that perhaps the Harvard community should evaluate its advances, acknowledge the numerous short-comings and determine to make less ambiguous progress in the next three years.
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