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KEEP your fingers crossed.
With a little luck, Harvard may soon have a real Afro-American Studies Department, which it so desperately needs.
The University has offered lifetime positions to three top Afro-Am scholars from other schools. If all three accept, and if new junior faculty are hired to teach Afro-Am--as has been promised--Harvard will finally get something more than a skeleton Black studies department.
The Administration has finally realized that drastic action is needed to rebuild Afro-Am after years of neglect. Any single scholar offered tenure in Harvard's department is likely to decline--no one wants to study or teach at a university devoid of scholars in the same area of inquiry.
Apparently realizing that dramatic action was required, especially after the death of prominent Afro-American Studies historian Nathan I. Huggins, Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence appointed a special executive committee of Harvard professors to expedite junior and senior-level Afro-Am appointments. And the committee has begun to pay dividends.
By attempting to lure three scholars at once, Harvard has made a bold move which could convince outside scholars of its commitment to Afro-Am. Witness the case of one of the three potential senior appointments--Nellie Y. McKay, the University of Wisconsin literary scholar who last fall turned down a Harvard tenure offer.
When McKay heard that Harvard had offered positions to Cornel R. West '74 and Albert J. Raboteau, both of Princeton, she said she might withdraw her rejection--and once again consider joining what now has a chance to become a real department.
Rejuvenating Afro-Am after years of relative stagnation will not be an easy task. But Harvard has finally recognized the magnitude of the problem and has made a long overdue move to start solving it.
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