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The diversity of Harvard's faculty and student body, or lack thereof, has long been a contentious issue at the University. Recent years have witnessed more and more campus initiatives intended to address these concerns, such as this week's discussion of the creation an official Ethnic Studies concentration. The Academic Affairs Committee (AAC), an informal student group who advocate greater attention to ethnic diversity on campus, has extended its effort beyond the realm of professors, academics and students so that it now includes the House life and House masters as well.
Earlier this year, Stephen A. Mitchell and Kristine L. Forsgard of Eliot House and Donald H. and Cathleen K. Pfister of Kirkland House announced their plans to terminate their respective masterships. The AAC has noted that before these masters step down, the only masters of ethnic descent will have been Dunster House masters Karel and Hetty Liem. The AAC hopes that the new appointments for masters in Eliot and Kirkland Houses will alter this lopsided imbalance. To this end, the AAC intends to send a letter to the College administration requesting that they pay special consideration to potential masters who will contribute to the campus' ethnic diversity and who are interested in improving race relations on campus. This letter will also include a list of professors and University faculty members the AAC feels would be suited for this job.
The diversification of both Harvard's faculty and student body is imperative to improving race relations on campus. Beyond the classroom and extracurricular activities, however, House life plays a significant role in students' communities and in their interaction with each other. The House master selection committees should address the issue of ethnic diversity for the benefit of both the community and of the undergraduates themselves.
But clearly, House master selection committees should pay more attention to their nominees than to only consider their ethnic heritage. Eliot and Kirkland Houses have begun the College's standard procedure: a student committee--consisting of one sophomore, one junior and one senior--has been selected to assist in the selection process. Yet it remains to be seen how much of an influence these students can have on those in the House and the College, including Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, who actually will have votes in the selection process.
If House masters are meant to guide Harvard's residential communities, then selection committees must consider whether the masters can address students' concerns and interests ranging from race relations to academic support. This can be accomplished in no better way than by listening to the students themselves. We not only support the AAC's letter to the administration, but we also hope that the House master selection committees make special efforts to take the students' concerns and issues into consideration.
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