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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Unrestricted Gifts Even FAS Ratios

TO THE EDITORS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Despite The Crimson's continued coverage of the desires of students to see greater gender and racial equity among Harvard's Faculty, no discussion of the mechanics of Faculty selection or the methods to correct the imbalance has been presented.

Though the Alternative Senior Gift Fund has drawn more attention to the issue, focusing on it has obscured student perception of how Faculty balance might be achieved. Among the 200 seniors who have given their time to the Senior Gift, it is known that the generosity of alumni/ae has allowed Harvard to amass the substantial resources it has and to constantly improve itself. The concerned efforts of these students directly affects Harvard's ability to realize the goals it has committed to.

Each department at Harvard possesses a certain number of Faculty Teaching Units (FTUs). The departments must then decide how to allocate their available FTUs among the various sub-specialties in their respective disciplines.

The proclivity of minority doctoral students is to pursue doctorates in fields like Afro-American Studies, Women's Studies or other fields not transferable to a majority of the Faculty positions in a liberal arts institution. The effective use of retirements to free FTUs to appoint more women and minorities is consequently limited by this mismatch and the illegality of forced retirement.

The only way in which Harvard can bring more minority and female Faculty members into its lecture halls is by making available more additional FTU, on a competitive basis among the various departments in FAS. One way in which this can be accomplished is for Harvard to increase the number of FTUs it gives to departments seeking to appoint minority or female professors from the one-half it presently gives, to one. This would relieve the departments' burden of producing a matching half FTU.

The fiscal feasibility of this proposal, however, is unlikely. The Afro-American Studies department successfully appointed prominent scholars Cornel West, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, William Julius Wilson and Lawrence Bobo using its available FTUs jointly, with other departments. Unfortunately, the Afro-American studies will soon exhaust its available FTUs and face the same difficulties as other departments in recruiting minority and female scholars.

The other and most probable source then for additional Faculty Teaching Units is through new capital donations. The importance of alumni/ae donations in protecting Harvard's resources for future generations and providing the capital to make improvements in the physical plant ($50 million to renovate first-year dorms and an equal amount to wire the entire campus) or the educational experience is highlighted by our desire to see professors whose academic perspective is shaped by influences shared by a diverse student body.

The Senior Gift is part of a process that has helped increase the support rate of alumni/ae from 30 to 50 percent over the past decade by highlighting the financial needs of the College, and the importance of widespread alumni participation in supporting the College as it seeks to maintain and improve itself. The participation rate among seniors in the class of 1996 was 70 percent, boding well for the future of the College.

Although all donations are put to suitable use, unrestricted gifts make possible use, unrestricted gifts make possible the sort of institutional change that will allow Harvard to maintain its preeminent position in higher education and the intellectual life of humanity. --Eli Aheto '97, First Marshall, Cabot House

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