The Black Students Association (BSA) is sponsoring a rally today at 1 p.m. at Memorial Church to express student solidarity with the Afro-American Studies Department, and to urge that the University increase its support for the concentration.
Rally organizers hope to encourage freshmen to major in Afro-Am, which has seen a rapid decline in concentrators in recent years.
They also plan to draw attention to the on going case of Ephraim Isaacs, who has filed racial discrimination charges against Harvard for its refusal to grant him tenure in 1975. BSA President Gaye Williams '83 said this week.
BSA members planning the rally said its chief goal is to correct misconceptions people have about Afro-Am. "I think the consciousness has to be raised," Karen Walker '84, a joint concentrator in the department said yesterday, adding she does not think that the student body as a whole fully appreciates the value of Afro-Am. "I would like to see people think of it as a place of scholarship," she said.
The department experienced a major decline in freshman applicants last year when only two freshmen applied. Walker said, She partially attributed the falloff to "subtle or not so subtle pressure by freshman advisors to steer people away from the department, particularly by saying it may be harmful to graduate school and employment plans."
Walker said that her Black proctor last year was very supportive of her decision to joint major in Government and Afro-Am, but she added, "the Government department was a little skeptical."
If there are not enough concentrators, the BSA organizers said they fear a "domino theory" could threaten the whole department. The administration may reason, "if there aren't many student concentrators in Afro-Am, they don't need many professors, and therefore there isn't much need for Afro-Am," Williams said.
The rally will also include speakers in support of Issacs and his charge of discrimination in his tenure denial. That case is still actively being pursued by Isaacs. Theodore Landsmark, his attorney, said last week.
Williams sees a particular importance in students continuing to rally for Isaacs, since this has been a longstanding commitment by Harvard students.
Noting that eight classes have graduated since Isaacs was denied tenure. Williams said, "Harvard's attitude is repeatedly to wait until students graduate." She added, "It's a measure of the importance of the case that we still haven't forgotten."