The Afro-American Studies Department should be changed to an interdisciplinary committee, the visiting committee to the department recommended in a unanimously approved report. The report's conclusions were made public yesterday in an article in The New York Times.
Edward N. Ney, chairman of the nine-member visiting committee, yesterday attributed its recommendation to problems which have plagued the department since its establishment ten years ago.
The problems cited in the report include:
*the inability of the department to attract tenured faculty members;
*the declining enrollments in Afro-American Studies courses as well as in the number of concentrators;
*the department's isolation from the mainstream of Harvard intellectual life and its poor relations with the rest of the University community.
Despite the visiting committee's recommendation in the report completed last fall, Dean Rosovsky said yesterday he is committed to maintaining Afro-American Studies as a department.
Ney said that because the committee's investigation "showed that the department is not working," they proposed a change in status for Afro-Am which would enable it to draw on the resources of the Faculty and the University.
The report is, however, "strictly advisory," Dean Rosovsky said, adding that a change in status can only be accomplished by a Faculty vote.
The Afro-American Studies Department is presently governed by a five-member executive committee appointed this fall. In addition to defining the department's intellectual mission, the executive committee is charged with aggressively recruiting scholars for tenured professorships in Afro-American Studies.
C. Clyde Ferguson, chairman of the executive committee, said yesterday that he was "unaware of the visiting committee's findings. We were charged with a department and will continue to run it as such."
Ewart Guinier '33, professor of Afro-American Studies and former department chairman, said yesterday the committee's conclusions are invalid because its members were unqualified and did not consult Afro-Am faculty.
Guinier said the visiting committee never interviewed him. He added that no Afro-Am scholars with national reputations served on the committee. "How can they presume to make suggestions on how Harvard's Afro-American studies department should be developed?" he said.
Ney said the committee consulted with every Afro-Am Faculty member, including Guinier.
Guinier also said he doubts the administration's support for the Afro-American Studies department. "Dean Rosovsky has done everything to thwart the development of the department. He personally opposed the establishment of the department. He has always believed that the department should be a committee," he said.
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Rosovsky said, however, "The record speaks for itself. We've invested heavily in the department. We've tried to make tenured department appointments. Guinier's statements are doing a grave disservice to the future of the department."
Ney said both the structure of the department and its treatment by the administration are responsible for its problems. "The committee didn't think that Harvard has given Afro-American Studies the time or consideration it deserves," he said.
"The visiting committee did not doubt the legitimacy of Afro-Am as a field of study," Ney said. "We believed, though that the structure of the program within the University was causing it to tun into difficulty," he added.
But most Afro-American Studies concentrators disagree with the visiting committee's evaluation. "Afro-Am can survive as a department as long as the University (President Bok and Dean Rosovsky) gives the department the support it is giving to other departments comparable in size to Afro-American Studies." Kenneth E. Walker '82, a joint concentrator in Afro-Am and Economics, said yesterday