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THE Minority Student Alliance (MSA) is asking all Harvard students to boycott classes tomorrow to protest the University's paucity of women and minority faculty. While such a request is not unprecedented, it is certainly daring; if most students choose to attend classes, the hastily organized boycott will be a failure. Given the potential for College-wide embarassment, every Harvard student should think carefully about minority faculty hiring and make a conscious decision whether to attend classes.
We endorse the boycott as a symbolic statement. The recent Law School boycott garnered national press attention and increased pressure on the Law School dean to increase efforts toward diverse faculty. Harvard's administration--by failing to implement key recommendations of a report by Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53--shows that it, too, needs such pressure to change. National exposure could also focus attention on the lack of minorities throughout academia.
But nobody should believe that one day's boycott will be enough to diversify the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Even President Derek C. Bok could not just snap his fingers and diversify the Faculty. Minority and women scholars first must accept tenure offers. The recent tenure rejections of Nellie Y. McKay, Albert J. Raboteau and Cornell R. West '74 demonstrate that Harvard must make itself more desirable to outside scholars before they will come. In the meantime, the administration should be praised for its recent efforts to revitalize Afro-American Studies through joint tenure offers. We encourage the administration to keep trying.
An even larger problem is the dearth of minority Ph.Ds candidates nationwide. While Harvard could bolster its ranks of minority faculty by luring them away from other universities, this approach is no lasting solution. Harvard will have to commit itself to increasing the number of minorities in the academic "pipeline" before the problem of homogeneous faculties can be adequately addressed. The recent increase in minority admissions to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences--which followed a boost in the school's financial aid funding--is a promising sign for the 21st century.
Although the Harvard administration cannot immediately do everything necessary to remedy the lack of faculty diversity, that does not excuse its current lethargy. The Faculty should follow the recommendations of the Verba Report and appoint senior Faculty members in each department to be affirmative action representatives. Such a move would shake up an otherwise stagnant process.
But first, students need to shake up the administration. We would have preferred that MSA had not moved the date of the boycott to avoid staging it during prefrosh week. By exposing one of Harvard's most shameful shortcomings to prospective students, MSA could have put even more pressure on the administration. Nevertheless, we endorse the boycott and encourage all students to participate.
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