Diversity Proves Elusive in Master Selection Process

Lewis, masters say merit matters most

As selection committees meet with finalists for the two House mastership openings this year, some students are hoping the result of the selection process will be a more diverse group of masters.

While Harvard may be an Ivy League leader in terms of student body diversity, when it comes to the people who lead its Houses, Harvard has a long way to go.

At Princeton, two Hispanic men and one Hispanic woman are among the masters of the university's five residential colleges for first- and second-year students.


But although Harvard has made strides in appointing more female masters, when it comes to racial diversity, only one of Harvard's 13 Houses--Dunster--is led by masters who are non-white.

Still, despite a recent effort by student members of the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) to urge the College to improve this ratio as it prepares to fill two soon-to-be-vacant masters positions, administrators and House masters say the goal of increasing diversity is harder than it seems.

"It is important to realize that it takes a very special set of qualities to be a good master, and not all Harvard Faculty, however distinguished and excellent in other respects, possess them," writes Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 in an e-mail message.

"I would certainly be delighted if a person of color were appointed to a mastership sometime in the next few years," he adds, "but that characteristic is not as important as appointing someone who will do the best job for the students in the House."

A Challenge Ahead

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