Afro-American Studies


To the Editor of The Crimson:

Dean Rosovsky continues to educate the African American community of its deteriorating status at Harvard. Quotes from two recently published newspapers illustrate his contempt for the formation of an African American Studies Department controlled by African Americans.

In an article on page thirteen of the September 17 issue of the morning Boston Globe entitled "Harvard opens center for Jewish community," he initially discusses the parallel between the increasing numbers of Jews at Harvard and the movement of Hillel toward the center of campus. Rosovsky said, "Harvard has helped in many ways. Most of all Harvard has made us feel at home. We are neither hyphenated nor second class citizens. We have to be leaders in keeping Harvard's gates open to all those who have the merit to enter." Though against quotas, Rosovsky said he favored "sympathy and tolerance." Moreover, he added, Jewish faculty and students should work for the incorporation of Jewish Studies into the curriculum.

"...Today we are a multitude," he said. By implication the dean expresses contemptuous "sympathy and tolerance" toward African Americans. For us, a quota system is a mechanism to secure our numbers in institutions which have historically excluded us in America.

How does this quote relate to African American Studies? An article on page three of the registration issue of the Harvard Independent entitled "Afro-Am Gets Pro-Tem Faculty, Chairman" tells us how. The article reveals that the department has: one and a half regular faculty members, two African Americans, no students on the newly formed five-member executive committee, and no African American chairman. Compare this to the dean's suggestion that Jewish faculty and students cooperate to form a Jewish Studies curriculum.


Concerning the issue of "building a faculty" for the hyphenated "Afro-Am" Department, Dean Rosovsky said last week, "The issue is not money, administration, or structure--it is an intellectual issue of teaching and research. We've tried for a decade to bring on a faculty. We have tried and we have failed..." This is another contemptuous statement directed toward African Americans--it implies that one decade is not sufficient time to collect an African American faculty capable of providing its intellectual direction.

Today we are not a multitude. And the deteriorating status of the department decreases the chances of bringing in African American faculty, especially outside of "Afro-Am." Like Hillel, the development of the African American Studies Department parallels our movement at Harvard. With its inception in 1969, the department signalled increasing numbers of faculty and students. This "second class" status may be the signal of decreasing numbers of faculty and students. Compare this with the increasing numbers of Jews in the faculty and the student body.

Can the African American community at Harvard look to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as represented by its dean, to develop an intellectually conscientious and academically respected African American Studies Department?

Dean Rosovsky has, and continues to answer this question for us.

No. Cedric Vessell '78