RONALD REAGAN'S assault on all things progressive continues, and, as was inevitable, has finally struck at the heart of affirmative action programs. Within months, federal contractors--like Harvard--will almost certainly no longer have to keep detailed records of search efforts that have helped keep them honest in their efforts to hire women and minorities.
That policy shift may tempt Harvard to abandon keeping its hefty records on affirmative action endeavors, but the University should resist the urge. Harvard should continue to report publicly on its hiring efforts, and show that the Reagan Revolution should not and will not move affirmative action from the spotlight.
Unfortunately for Harvard, attention in the past to its hiring policies revealed all-too-spotty compliance with affirmative action codes, compliance that tended to conform to the letter--but rarely the spirit--of affirmative action legislation. The days when you could count the number of tenured women Faculty on the fingers of one hand and still have an astonishing number of fingers left over may be gone, but it remains mildly incredible that Harvard College boasts a mere 16 tenured women out of 356 on its tenured Faculty. Upper-level administrators, too, tend to be white males: the University should step up its search efforts for qualified women and minority administrators who could add a different perspective in running Harvard. And the undergraduate admissions office should continue its excellent work seeking and attracting a diverse student body.
Last year may have shown some trend towards more genuine compliance: four previously all-male departments--English, History, Anthropology and Psychology--each hired a women for a tenured professorship. Such efforts should continue, and the current review by the administration of the Sociology Department, whose denial of tenure last year to Theda R. Skocpol, former associate professor of Sociology, seems to reflect sexism, conscious or otherwise, should be particularly exhaustive.
The struggle for truly fair hiring policies and genuine searches for minority and women scholars should be stepped up, too, at Harvard's graduate schools. The Kennedy School's record of affirmative action is particularly abysmal--it has yet to hire one tenured woman or Black, and has had but one female associate professor in its history. Department of Labor scrutiny of the school seems to have diminished in the wake of the Republican takeover, but the University itself should pressure the K-School to step up its searches. With millions of dollars pouring in for the school's new building, it is particularly shameful that the school must plead insufficient funds in spurning a student request for a minority recruiter.
Harvard for too long has lagged in the national quest for affirmative action in education. The relaxation of federal standards may tempt the University to ease its efforts; we hope Harvard will use it as an opportunity to spearhead the cause of affirmative action across the country, by setting an example of vigorous searching for women and minority scholars when doing so is out of favor.
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