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Minority Groups Issue Demands on Diversity

Voice Concerns at Junior Parents Weekend Forum

By Elissa L. Gootman and Sandhya R. Rao

A Junior Parents Weekend discussion yesterday on "celebrating diversity" turned into a forum for a coalition of minority groups to issue a list of demands on Harvard administrators.

More than 50 students clad in black carried signs and distributed flyers alleging a pattern of insensitive behavior by Harvard faculty members and administrators.

The protest spilled over into the Junior Parents Weekend event in Science Center B, where College officials, student leaders and an audience of over 200 juniors and parents engaged in a heated discussion.

One flyer, titled "The Peculiar Institution" (a reference to slavery) and signed by nine campus organizations, called for an "official investigation" into "institutionalized racism" at the College.

The flyer contains a catalog of complaints, ranging from allegedly "erroneous and racist" statements on grade inflation by Thomson Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield to a dearth of Black and Latino professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

A coalition of minority groups compiled the flyer including the Asian American Association (AAA), Black Students' Association (BSA), Carribean Club, Harvard African Students' Association, Japan Society, Korean Students' Association, La (), Raza and Society of Arab Students.

The flyer calls for Mansfield to apologize for his statements linking grade inflation to an increasing number of Black students at the College. It also says President Neil L. Rudenstine and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles must apologize for their "silence in the issue."

Rudenstine, Knowles and Mansfield did not return phone calls to respond to the charges and demands last night. Last week, Mansfield refused to comment when questioned about his statements.

The students demanded a "town meeting," to be held with Rudenstine and other administrators by March 24, to deal with diversity issues.

They also requested increased funding and curricula for ethnic and minority issues and called for a "candidate review process," to begin by April 16, that would lead to the appointment of a tenured Latino professor.

In addition, the students protested the lack of any Asian-American representatives on two Junior Parents Weekend panels, including the panel dealing with diversity.

Members of the coalition did not specify what action they would take if their demands are not met.

Another flyer, distributed by AAA and eight sister groups, said organizers of the weekend had been "grossly negligent in their oversight." On Thursday, Daniel H. Choi '94, who is Asian-American, was added to one of the panels after a protest by several Asian student groups.

The flyer calls on the College to ensure that such an "oversight" is not repeated. It also asks for a meeting with the administration "to better insure that diversity at Harvard will be truly represented."

But students said the rally was an important way of vocalizing their concerns to administrators and parents. "We are all in it together," said Mariano E. Cuellar '94.

Stormy Panel Discussion

As parents and students took their seats in Science Center B for the panel discussion on diversity, the protesters followed, flanking the walls of the auditorium while the panelists spoke.

The program, titled "Celebrating Diversity in the Community," featured Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, BSA President Zaheer R. Ali '94, former Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Shai A. Held '94 and Ilana S. Ruskay '94, a member of Response.

The panelists addressed several of the issues raised by the protesters, including Harvard's response to Mansfield's remarks, the lack of minority faculty and the absence of Asian-American representation on the panel.

Epps said that faculty and administrators have a responsibility to improve the atmosphere for minorities at the College.

"Faculty and administration need to accept more responsibility," Epps said. "We tend to rely too much on the students to bring these issues to the fore."

Ali said "the institution places a burden on the student population but not the College."

"Maybe there is no interest [in] improving race relations, and the only way of convincing me is through your actions," Ali said to Epps.

Dowling said that Harvard is working to make its faculty and staff more diverse, attributing the slow pace of the process to the low faculty turnover rate.

"Academia, unfortunately, isn't held in high esteem by many minority communities," Dowling said, adding that many minority college graduates pursue the professional, not academic, route.

But Ali responded that "other schools don't have the same problems," noting that Black students may be intimidated by the academic profession because "we don't see role models--going into academia is like going into isolation from the [Black] community."

Audience member Charlene Morisseau '95 chastised Harvard's Black faculty members for failing to act as role models for Black students, and for not responding to Mansfield's comments.

"Where are the minority faculty when we need them?" Morisseau asked. "I should not have to feel alone when I'm fighting these battles."

At times, the atmosphere in the room became heated.

Dowling said he strongly disagreed with Mansfield's argument. "In my view, that's rubbish," he said.

One parent referred to the lack of Asian-Americans on the panel as "insensitive" of the administration.

"I don't really think the [organizing] committee intentionally left them out," Epps responded.

Other panelists spoke of the need for tolerance and a recognition of the College's diversity.

"We must celebrate both diversity and the ways in which to express and communicate this diversity," Ruskay said.

Dowling emphasized the importance of "understanding each other, being tolerant to one's views and learning about one another." Still, he said, "We are making progress--but slow progress."

Held said diversity within groups is as important to recognize as diversity among groups.

"[The Jewish community at Harvard is] the Baskin-Robbins of American Jewish life, but there are many more than 31 flavors to choose from," Held said.

"We have something to gain from any Jew, or non-Jew or any person who enters [the Hillel] building," said Held, calling for pluralism.

"All problems are moral problems," Held said, emphasizing the need for unity instead of competition among the various minority groups.

Ali spoke of the importance of hearing a wide range of viewpoints, even if some are controversial.

"We have a right to know the truth, we have a right to seek the truth, we have a right to learn the truth," Ali said. "We cannot respect ourselves if we do not respect the truth."

Parents Speak Out

Some parents who attended the seminar and witnessed the rally seemed surprised by the flaring racial tensions.

"I'm surprised that this debate is going on here, at Harvard, where they are advising the government about how to conduct public policy," said Joan McKay, mother of Marc D. McKay '94. "Where are all the tenured professors?"

Others said they supported the concerns of the students rallying for more attention to diversity.

"They should have a little of everybody up there," said Robert Kirschner, father of Pamela B. Kirschner '94. "If there wasn't a demonstration, it wouldn't be Harvard.

Another flyer, distributed by AAA and eight sister groups, said organizers of the weekend had been "grossly negligent in their oversight." On Thursday, Daniel H. Choi '94, who is Asian-American, was added to one of the panels after a protest by several Asian student groups.

The flyer calls on the College to ensure that such an "oversight" is not repeated. It also asks for a meeting with the administration "to better insure that diversity at Harvard will be truly represented."

But students said the rally was an important way of vocalizing their concerns to administrators and parents. "We are all in it together," said Mariano E. Cuellar '94.

Stormy Panel Discussion

As parents and students took their seats in Science Center B for the panel discussion on diversity, the protesters followed, flanking the walls of the auditorium while the panelists spoke.

The program, titled "Celebrating Diversity in the Community," featured Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, BSA President Zaheer R. Ali '94, former Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Shai A. Held '94 and Ilana S. Ruskay '94, a member of Response.

The panelists addressed several of the issues raised by the protesters, including Harvard's response to Mansfield's remarks, the lack of minority faculty and the absence of Asian-American representation on the panel.

Epps said that faculty and administrators have a responsibility to improve the atmosphere for minorities at the College.

"Faculty and administration need to accept more responsibility," Epps said. "We tend to rely too much on the students to bring these issues to the fore."

Ali said "the institution places a burden on the student population but not the College."

"Maybe there is no interest [in] improving race relations, and the only way of convincing me is through your actions," Ali said to Epps.

Dowling said that Harvard is working to make its faculty and staff more diverse, attributing the slow pace of the process to the low faculty turnover rate.

"Academia, unfortunately, isn't held in high esteem by many minority communities," Dowling said, adding that many minority college graduates pursue the professional, not academic, route.

But Ali responded that "other schools don't have the same problems," noting that Black students may be intimidated by the academic profession because "we don't see role models--going into academia is like going into isolation from the [Black] community."

Audience member Charlene Morisseau '95 chastised Harvard's Black faculty members for failing to act as role models for Black students, and for not responding to Mansfield's comments.

"Where are the minority faculty when we need them?" Morisseau asked. "I should not have to feel alone when I'm fighting these battles."

At times, the atmosphere in the room became heated.

Dowling said he strongly disagreed with Mansfield's argument. "In my view, that's rubbish," he said.

One parent referred to the lack of Asian-Americans on the panel as "insensitive" of the administration.

"I don't really think the [organizing] committee intentionally left them out," Epps responded.

Other panelists spoke of the need for tolerance and a recognition of the College's diversity.

"We must celebrate both diversity and the ways in which to express and communicate this diversity," Ruskay said.

Dowling emphasized the importance of "understanding each other, being tolerant to one's views and learning about one another." Still, he said, "We are making progress--but slow progress."

Held said diversity within groups is as important to recognize as diversity among groups.

"[The Jewish community at Harvard is] the Baskin-Robbins of American Jewish life, but there are many more than 31 flavors to choose from," Held said.

"We have something to gain from any Jew, or non-Jew or any person who enters [the Hillel] building," said Held, calling for pluralism.

"All problems are moral problems," Held said, emphasizing the need for unity instead of competition among the various minority groups.

Ali spoke of the importance of hearing a wide range of viewpoints, even if some are controversial.

"We have a right to know the truth, we have a right to seek the truth, we have a right to learn the truth," Ali said. "We cannot respect ourselves if we do not respect the truth."

Parents Speak Out

Some parents who attended the seminar and witnessed the rally seemed surprised by the flaring racial tensions.

"I'm surprised that this debate is going on here, at Harvard, where they are advising the government about how to conduct public policy," said Joan McKay, mother of Marc D. McKay '94. "Where are all the tenured professors?"

Others said they supported the concerns of the students rallying for more attention to diversity.

"They should have a little of everybody up there," said Robert Kirschner, father of Pamela B. Kirschner '94. "If there wasn't a demonstration, it wouldn't be Harvard.

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