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On the Saturday of The Game, I was going to organize an event that would bring Harvard to its knees. No, I was not going to streak during The Game, I was going to do something much more exciting than that. I intended to shock both students and administrators, not to mention a few alumni. No one in their wildest dreams thought what I was planning was possible, but the results were sure to be startling for the whole University.
I was planning to bring the campus minority organizations together at a rally for minority representation in the faculty and the curriculum. We were going to meet early at the John Harvard statue, that symbol that somehow denies us so much. Wearing our warmest clothes (all black, of course), and armed with witty chants and wittier posters, we would walk down to the stadium entrances across the river. But no one was interested in helping me bring this plan together.
We missed such a great opportunity. The Crimson was going to eat it up. Old and new alumni would be shocked. The student body would reconsider if they truly were receiving the best education promised in the admissions brochures. After the rally, minority student leaders would be invited to chat with Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and Dean of Affirmative Action Marjorie Garber and President Neil L. Rudenstine too. This time, the office doors would be wide open.
The only gains on Saturday were Crimson football yardage. And all I have to look forward to today is more boring lectures from faculty members who do not adequately consider my history. Today, I will occupy myself with thoughts about what to do over Thanksgiving in this cold place so far from home.
I was going to protest, rally, chant and demand that I be recognized by this institution. I even made a poster that would be the crowning glory of this day. But that poster will now be field in the personal section of my files under the neatly typed label "TO DO." Maybe I'll type a new label that says "IMPOSSIBLE" so that the flier is not out of place. After all, those grand plans don't sit very well next to my latest batch of unpaid bills.
When I should have been strategizing with my partners in protest last week, I sat alone in a meeting room and realized how hard it is to motivate people of color to work together. When I tell people of color what we can do if we work together, inevitably most respond that it will be hard to get our groups together since we all seem to have different agendas.
Every organization has its specific goals, but one thing that binds us together at Harvard is the fact that we are ALL underrepresented. If we cannot recognize this unity and act to change it, we have given up before we've even begun. That makes me very disillusioned by the people in our communities of color.
I honestly thought we could unite on this issue, and perhaps someday we will. But we are creating too many barriers between our communities by not talking to each other. I thought that the African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos would be excited to work together, or at least attend a meeting to discuss what each of our organizations are doing about our problems with representation on campus.
I thought the rally would be a success with different groups actively participating. The Latino organizations would certainly participate since they have already pressured the administration as they work on Latino faculty hiring. The Black students would help since the Black Students Association had organized a similar rally and march for the Afro-Am Department in the past several years. Even the Asian Americans groups on campus would join in through the new Political Action Committee of the Asian American Association. Other minority and ethnic groups would also be involved after they found out about the coalition.
The student leaders of these organizations thought it was a good idea. Of course, they could not speak on behalf of their entire organizations, but they said they would mention it to other members of their executive boards and would get back to me ASAP. I'm still waiting.
While I watch opportunities pass our communities by, I will try to figure out if perhaps I should blame Harvard administrators for this condition. Maybe they are conspiring behind closed doors over what to do to keep our groups busy and divided. If they are, they should not conspire too much; the ethnic and minority groups rarely form politically active coalitions, though co-sponsorships of social events are common.
I understand that the timing for this rally was not quite right. I know how difficult it is to get student members to show up to an organization's events. I also know that each group cares about the dearth of minority representation. But when are we going to talk to each other about what our groups are doing? Must we depend on The Crimson's coverage of minority affairs to inform us about minority activism? If we do, we won't be well informed.
The administration is certainly not helping any group that decides to be politically active, even if they go through all the proper and polite channels. The leaders of the Latino faculty hiring issue have worked with the administration, but some of them are getting tired of being polite. I know I am tired of how polite we have had to be even to get our foot inside the office doors.
Members of the Latino organizations compiled a list of qualified Latino professors and handed it to Marjorie Garber, dean for affirmative action, last Thursday at a meeting. She said that something might come of the list. Knowles, when he met with the same Latino student leaders weeks before, stated that if they came up with a list of professors, the administration would act on it. After countless hours and phone calls, the students who worked so hard on this list have the hope that something may come of it from the affirmative action dean. I doubt it ever crossed the mind of an administrator to do such a simple thing as compile a list without student prompting.
Knowles placed the burden of finding professors on the students, who then went off and busied themselves compiling this list. I thought affirmative action was designed so that qualified minority candidates would be actively sought and even recruited to fill positions where they have been underrepresented in the past. But here at Harvard it is the students who have to take the initiative. And it is only a few students who are working on this by themselves for everyone's benefit.
With this strategy, the administration is able to keep the students occupied until they graduate or give up. Minority students were too busy promoting Harvard spirit to participate in a broad and unified statement to the administration and alumni at The Game.
But for me, it was hard to show school spirit without thinking about the vision I have for Harvard's future. The administration's lackadaisical response will not make me give up, but if minority student apathy continues, it might be enough to make me give up the fight.
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