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Turmoil At the GSAS


By Jonathan D. Ratner

It's an allegation to make an equal opportunity officer's head spin: A committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences this week charged the University with violating affirmative action guidelines in the hiring of an individual who is now coordinating minority recruitment and admissions at the GSAS.

In a letter sent to President Bok Wednesday, the students alleged that the University misleadingly described a position as "secretarial" which actually required assuming daily responsibility for the coordination of GSAS minority recruitment and admissions activities.

The veracity of the charges centers upon the exact duties of Geraldine Popko, the woman hired last summer to assist Nina Hillgarth, director of special students at GSAS, who is unofficially in charge of GSAS minority admissions activity.

The students contend that Popko has actually relieved Hillgarth of all but her highest level responsibilities coordinating minority recruitment and admissions.

GSAS administrators said this week they are investigating the students' charge, but maintained that they believe Popko's chores are essentially secretarial and that the University did not mislead job applicants.

But students supported its allegations with excerpts from an internal GSAS memo written last March by Hillgarth. In the memo, Hillgarth apparently suggested that an individual be hired as her assistant to "handle all correspondence with and grade applications for field quality."

Peter S. McKinney, acting dean of the GSAS, said this week that the Hillgarth memo, the students quoted, was meant to be a "candid, internal document," and contained policy alternatives rather than absolute plans for the future.

"The timing and way in which this letter was put together is distracting people from a question that's a hell of a lot more important--how to recruit and admit minority students to the graduate school," McKinney said.

The students concluded their letter by relating their charge about Popko to other problems they perceive at GSAS.

The hiring practice shows that "the continued paucity of enrolled students in GSAS is not without an element of design," the letter stated.

The entire controversy over Popko's position may become more academic during the coming week: Dean Pipkin said yesterday that the Faculty Council will this Wednesday consider a proposal originally made by the GSAS student committee that a distinct official minority recruitment officer for GSAS be hired.

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