To the Editors of The Crimson:
We are writing to set the record straight about the efforts by Harvard Law students to desegregate the Harvard Law school faculty. Most media coverage to date erroneously characterizes the dispute at Harvard Law School between students and the administration on the issue of minority faculty hiring.
A coalition of student groups at Harvard Law School has organized a boycott to emphasize the need for more tenured minority faculty members at the Law School and to seek reinstatement of the "Constitutional Law and Minority Issues" course which was discontinued after Harvard's first Black tenured professor left two years ago to become dean of another law school. These goals were endorsed by over 500 Harvard law students, most of them white, in a petition to the Law School administration in the fall of 1981.
The Law School responded to our demands by inviting Julius LeVonne Chambers and Jack Greenberg, two visiting attorneys, who together could only spare a total of three weeks from their busy schedules, to teach a course. "Racial Discrimination and Civil Rights," during the irregular Winter Term. Moreover, the course was announced after all students had already registered for the entire 1982-83 academic year.
We are, therefore, boycotting this belated and inadequate addition to the 1982-83 curriculum, taught by non-tenure track visiting professors. The fact that one of these visitors, Jack Greenberg, is white is simply not the animus behind our actions. Rather, we are protesting the complete lack of good faith by the Law School administration in recruiting and retaining minority tenured professors. If there is any racism at Harvard, it is on the part of the Law School administration whose dean expressed a preference for hiring "an excellent white teacher" over a "mediocre Black one." To imply that black legal professionals are mediocre is a grievous misstatement at best, and a racist commentary at worst.
The editorial coverage, particularly Carl T Rowan's analysis, has indicated a gross misunderstanding of the history and the goal of our boycott.
For at least four years minority students in various organizations at Harvard have been encouraging the Law School to increase the number of minority students, faculty and staff
There is presently only one tenured minority professor at Harvard Law School in a faculty of 60. In short, the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BALSA) feels that if race can be considered as a possible factor in school admission decisions (as the Supreme Court stated in the Bakke decision), then it certainly can be considered as a positive factor in choosing a tenure track instructor of a legal course on racial discrimination. Clearly then, the issue is not a white visiting attorney, but rather the ongoing fight for affirmative action and desegregation.
It should also be noted that the National Black American Law Student Association has affirmed its support of Harvard students' effort to desegregate the Harvard Law School faculty.
All of this information was available to the media had they only contacted both parties in this controversy. Donald Christopher Tyler Member, Executive Committee, Harvard Black Law Students Association