THE UNIVERSITY'S SUPPORT for affirmative action and minority recruitment in admissions came under serious question last week as a committee of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences students charged the University with violating affirmative action guidelines in the hiring of an individual who now allegedly coordinates daily minority recruitment and admissions activity for the graduate school.
The committee, in a letter to President Bok, charged the University with misleading job applicants by describing as "secretarial" a post they contend encompasses all but the highest-level policy decisions concerning minority recruitment and admissions. Peter S. McKinney, acting dean of the GSAS and the individual immediately responsible for the hiring, is currently formulating a reply to the charges, while Phyllis Keller, equal opportunity officer for the Faculty, is undertaking an investigation of the allegations. If the charges turn out to be true, the school's action represents the ultimate act of bad faith, a deplorable violation of both the letter and spirit of affirmative action guidelines.
Even while the investigation continues, McKinney's initial response to the students' charges should be deplored. McKinney showed a complete lack of sensitivity and understanding in describing the students' charges as a unproductive distraction from what he termed "the question that's a hell of a lot more important--how to recruit and admit minority students to the graduate school." Of course McKinney has hit upon the issue of primary concern--GSAS minority recruitment and admission, but his attempt to separate the hiring procedure question from minority admissions policy is dubious. As the students pointed out in their letter to Bok, minority recruitment and admissions work requires certain skills and sensitivity in dealing with applicants, other academic institutions and individuals within the university. An innovative person is required to seek out qualified applicants and present the merits of graduate school work to the nation's top minority undergraduates.
CERTAINLY, MANY QUALIFIED minority applicants would have applied for the allegedly non-secretarial position, if they had known the post entailed minority admissions work. If the charges are true, then describing major qualifications for the job as typing, shorthand and filing skills was a deceptive and insulting attempt to hinder the prospects for GSAS minority recruitment and admissions.
As the investigation of the hiring action proceeds, the Faculty in the next several weeks will hopefully move from simply investigating alleged wrongs of the past to taking positive steps to improve the minority admissions situation at GSAS. The Faculty can begin by approving the minority recruitment and admissions proposals of the GSAS student committee discussed yesterday by the Faculty Council.
The most important student proposal calls for the establishment of a minority recruitment officer at GSAS. Such a minority recruitment must play an integral role in internal GSAS admissions policymaking, as well as maintain close external relations with other undergraduate institutions and prospective applicants.
Above all, the Faculty Council must judge the students' proposals on their substantive merits, and not view minority recruitment and admissions as an arena for political posturing now that the issue has once again come under public scrutiny.