Coalition Demands Met Slowly

News Analysis

Last week, more than 50 students staged a dramatic protest of what they saw as Harvard's failure to "celebrate diversity."

Dressed in black, they carried signs and passed out fliers with complaints and demands signed by nine campus organizations, spanning many ethnic and racial minority groups.

The demands, many concerning the hiring of minority faculty and the need for ethnic studies courses, are not new, Groups have been asking for both since the beginning of the year, and so far, few concrete results can be seen, the students say.

In fact, students say they are not even sure who to take their demands to, and Harvard's top-level administrators have offered conflicting versions of who exactly is in charge when it comes to handling complaints from students.

The coalition called for, among other things, a reexamination of the question of ethnic studies and stronger efforts to diversify the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Specific demands included more Asian American studies courses, and ethnic studies requirements under the Core Curriculum, a town meeting to address faculty diversity issues and a review process to lead to the appointment of a Latino professor.


Assistant Dean for Academic Planning Joseph I McCarthy, who works on issues of affirmative action in the Faculty, said there has not been a direct response to the coalition's demands.

"No, there has not been a specific reaction here that I know of," he said yesterday. "But there is definitely the continuing effort to hire excellent faculty and diversify the faculty."

Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell said he is "not sure how many people have taken notice" of the coalition's demands.

"Some have taken very careful notice," he said, but it appears to some student leaders that top administration authorities move slowly, if at all.

Zaheer R. Ali '94, who wrote a letter to Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles in late February, said the dean's response, which came just Wednesday, seemed "rather late."

"I think now that is going to become an issue, when we'll see how willing he is to resolve issues of concern to students," he said. "That just shows the central administration is quite slow".

President Neil I. Rudenstine defended the dean's delay, saying Knowles is incredibly busy and has many responsibilities.

"I don't honestly think Dean Knowles is inaccessible," Rudenstine said. "Unlike me, he actually has a faculty of 800 people, he has 6,400 undergraduates and all those graduate students."

This is not the first time, though, that Knowles has drawn complaints from minority student leaders for his handling of concerns.

In early October, Latino student leaders requested a meeting with Knowles to discuss ethnic studies in the curriculum.

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