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Social Responsibility Should Be Top Priority

By Donald M. Solomon

Editor's note: This statement was a collaborative effort of the executive committee of the Harvard and Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid, a prodivestment group which describes itself as "a movement for diversity and social responsibility." Their statement is part of a continuing series in The Crimson on the challenges facing the next president of Harvard.

NOTHING anyone says in these pages will alter the highest priority the next Harvard president will have: to spearhead a major fund drive which has already been planned. He or she will have to approach many incredibly wealthy individuals, most of them alumni or alumnae, successful in the business world, parents of current or future applicants and, in practically every case, white.

The president will have to convince each of them that Harvard will continue to offer its student an education equal to what they received, toward the goal of providing the world with graduates as motivated and successful as they, and in pursuit of that goal produce research and scholarship useful to those graduates and their employers. The richest among them may contribute more in one year than the average American will earn in a lifetime.

But what will the president do when he (or, there is a chance, she) is not moving in these exalted circles? To whom, really, does the University owe a duty of stewardship over the money raised and over the billions already in the endowment?

To future generations, of course, and especially to those who will be entrusted with leadership. But who among those future generations will lead, and who in our generation will decide what knowledge or skills will render one fit for leadership in the future?

Diversity--at home and abroad--is the short answer to many of these questions. We know now that we cannot attain the goals of world peace, prosperity and justice unless every culture's contribution to our world is recognized, and unless members of every culture may aspire to leadership.

This forces us to question not only formal barriers such as apartheid, but the more subtle barriers of class, culture, gender, manners and privilege that serve as gatekeepers in societies like our own that have forsworn legal discrimination.

That is why it is important that students learn to understand and appreciate the diverse cultures of the world, important that students from all those cultures be sought out and encouraged, and important that all students experience faculty and administrators from those cultures in positions of authority. The president must take action--not merely appoint committees--to make sure these things occur with increasing frequency in the near future.

SOCIAL responsibility is perhaps the most important value that education passes on to the next generation--responsibility to tell the truth, to preserve the planet and to improve the lot of the least well-off, both in absolute and in relative terms. The best contribution Harvard can make to the world is to ensure that more of its graduates choose careers that identify and solve the problems that have been ignored or exacerbated over the last 354 years.

That cannot happen unless Harvard itself leads the way. The president must lead by example and infuse everything Harvard does--from education to investment--with the ideals it wishes its graduates to have.

Harvard and Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid urges the next president to make achieving the goals of diversity and social responsibility the highest priority of the new administration. Harvard's stature can only be enhanced by having these achievements come as the result of official University policy rather than as the bitter fruit of years of contention.

The following people make up the executive board of the Harvard and Radcliffe Alumni/ae Against Apartheid: Judith K. Baker '70; Eric B. Gumbi; Jan L. Handke; Chester Hartman '57; Joel Krieger; Irving P. McPhail; Donald M. Solomon; Jonathan Walters '71; Robert Paul Wolff '53; and Lena S. Zezulin '76.

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