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In a lively debate at the Kennedy School of Government last night, speakers represented a wide range of opinions ranging from strident support to comparing the program to a form of totalitarianism.
During the talk--moderated by President of the Harvard Law Review Barack Obama--Professor of Education and Sociology Nathan Glazer defined as "a special effort for special groups, on the basis of underutilization," a term referring to the comparison of the number of minorities in a particular job to the number eligible for that job.
Glazer, who has studied and written extensively about affirmative action, said that at Harvard there is strong pressure on department chairs to hire minorities. "If you hire a non-minority person, you have to explain why," he said. "If you proposed hiring a minority person, you don't have to make any explanations."
A major reason that the University has not hired larger numbers of women and minority faculty members is that there are not enough qualified applicants, Glazer said at the Institute of Politics-sponsored discussion.
While Assistant to the President Ronald L. Quincy, the University's chief affirmative action coordinator, agreed that a limited pool of qualified minority applicants exists, he charged that major universities "such as Harvard are doing very little to correct the pool problem."
A study published by Quincy's office reported that compared to 14 similar institutions, Harvard ranked 12th for tenuring women faculty and 10th for tenuring minorities, he said.
A student member of the panel, Michael Lord '90, took a strong stand against affirmative action. A member of the Harvard Republicans Club, Lord compared the "coercive" program to policies in the Third Reich and South Africa. He alleged that such policies cause a "new ghettoization of America," creating an "us against them" mentality.
Another member of the panel, Dennis Lin '93, said the diversity that affirmative action brings to the campus benefits all students and faculty.
"Equal opportunity means that one group doesnot have to work a lot harder to reach the samestarting point," said Lin, who is a member of theAsian American Association. "I don't want to livein a society built on the rotting foundation ofyears past."
When several students in the Starr Auditoriumaudience of more than 60 suggested thateconomically disadvantaged people should beincluded in affirmative action plans, Quincyresponded, "If there is a pecking order fordiscriminatory practices, race and gender shouldbe at the top.
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