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For 17 years, the American Indian Program (AIP) at the Graduate School of Education received about a quarter of a million dollars a year in federal funding.
Since 1987, it has received none.
The cut-off in federal funds has severely hampered the campus and community operations of AIP, affiliates said. The group was set up to recruit Native American students to the Ed School, provide them with financial support and a sense of community and bolster the Native American presence on the school's faculty and curriculum.
The precarious state of the AIP has become a focus of concern among Ed School students recently.
This month, the Student Association Cabinet (SAC) published an open letter in The Appian Way, the Ed School's student newsletter, to Dean Patricia A. Graham asking Harvard to establish "a permanent place at Harvard Graduate School of Education" for the AIP.
"If [the Education School] is permitted, in effect, to place AIP on a respirator, and the Program is allowed to continue in its weakened state, with a bare minimum of funding, a half-time director and [the Ed School's] half-hearted commitment to Indian education, then these conditions will surely lead to the Program's imminent demise," the open letter quotes Erma Vizenor, the American Indian Students' Association representative to SAC, as saying.
And this week, the SAC will hold a "Beat the Blues Bash," the proceeds of which will go to support AIP.
The Ed School students say they are trying to support AIP because the federal funding cuts have decimated its operations.
In the past, AIP awarded fifteen fellowships annually to Native American students at the School of Education. Today, the AIP cannot afford to provide fellowships to anyone.
Manley Begay, a doctoral student at the School of Education who is also a Navajo, says that in order for AIP's place at Harvard to be secure and effective, it needs more money.
While AIP still had federal money, as many as 15 Native Americans a year matriculated at the Ed School, Begay says. But in the absence of AIP fellowships, he adds, only two Native Americans matriculated at the school in the past year.
Begay says he is now one of only four Native Americans currently studying at the School of Education.
"Harvard and Americans in general," Begay says, "have a moral and legal responsibility to support American Indian issues, and Harvard has a responsibility to support an AIP program...because we need Harvard's help."
Jerome Murphy, associate dean of the Ed School, says that the school, one of Harvard's most financially strapped, is doing everything it can to insure the viability of the Native American program.
"We share with students the concern that we are able to continue the program, and...we are doing everything that we can to raise the funds to make that possible," Murphy says.
When government funding was cut off, the Ed School and the AIP arranged for an annual $18,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. The grant was for a two-year period, ending in June.
The Ed School has agreed to make up the sum when the foundation grant runs out, but that still leaves the AIP with an operating budget of $18,000, all of which goes to the part-time salary of its director, Dr. Bette Haskins, Begay says
"1992 marks 500 years since Columbus came to America, so we'd like to see a revival of Harvard's initial commitment to the education of Indians," Begay says in reference to the original Harvard College charter, which called for the education of "English and Indian youths."
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