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President Defends Outburst at Meeting

Rudenstine Says He Approached Diversity From a 'Purely Educational Perspective'


President Neil L. Rudenstine said in an interview yesterday that his uncharacteristic display of emotion at Tuesday's faculty meeting came about in the heat of the moment during a spirited debate on his recent report on diversity at Harvard.

When he was challenged by accusations from faculty members that these reports, a study on diversity and an open letter to the Harvard community on affirmative action, were politically motivated, the president repeatedly pounded the table to emphasize each word of his retort.

He contended in yesterday's interview that his response was not out of the ordinary. He added that his current position is consistent with his previous stances on the issue of diversity in education.

"I've been speaking out on this for a long time," Rudenstine said. "It's just a difference of how much heat and light it generates."

Two professors, Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. '53 and Professor of Yiddish Literature and of Comparative Literature Ruth R. Wisse, accused Rudenstine in the meeting of using the reports to further political beliefs.

Rudenstine's outburst came after Wisse accused him of playing ethnic politics.

"If you're interested in politics, you can see this in terms of politics, but I was approaching it from a purely educational perspective," Rudenstine said yesterday.

Still, Rudenstine lauded the debate as being "exactly what a faculty meeting means."

"From my point of view, at that moment it was a good, robust discussion," Rudenstine said. "It was overall a good discussion. Quite a few people spoke with all different positions."

Rudenstine said he has not been frustrated with the reception his reports have received, pointing out that the majority of the responses he has received have been positive.

"In my wildest imagination I can't hear anybody say diversity is not a good thing," Rudenstine said. "Many people have different views on how to implement it. I'm more interested in getting people to agree on the goal."

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