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Latino Studies Pushes for Center

Meeting with Provost today

By Kate L. Rakoczy, Crimson Staff Writer

Several prominent Faculty members are pushing University President Lawrence H. Summers for the creation of a Center for Latino Studies and the group, including members of the Inter-Faculty Committee on Latino Studies, will meet this morning with newly arrived Provost Steven E. Hyman to discuss the matter.

But Summers is far from jumping on the band wagon, Faculty members said over the weekend.

The Inter-Faculty Committee on Latino Studies submitted a proposal for the center to the newly-selected president last June.

Summers has yet to respond formally to that proposal but has led several professors to believe that he does not support the idea, according to John H. Coatsworth, Gutman professor of Latin American Affairs.

Coastworth said the recent controversy between Summers and the Afro-American Studies department has made him—and his colleagues—question Summers’ commitment to diversity and concerned about the future of Latino Studies at Harvard.

In October, Assistant Provost Sean T. Buffington ’90 rejected a proposal that a center be constructed as an arm of the David Rockefeller Center, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, chair of the Inter-Faculty Committee told The Boston Globe last week.

Suarez-Orozco declined to comment when contacted by The Crimson, citing today’s meeting with the Provost.

Coatsworth said that when he met with Summers over the summer, Summers was reluctant to endorse the creation of a Latino Studies center.

“He expressed some worries about a proliferation of centers and institutes

that once established are hard to get rid of,” Coatsworth said.

“I haven’t funded any new initiatives, pending the arrival of the Provost,” Summers said in a recent interview with The Crimson.

The Provost oversees all inter-faculty initiatives.

Any initiative to establish a Center for Latino Studies would have to be discussed by the full Faculty given the current Faculty policy on ethnic studies, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R. Knowles said in an interview with The Crimson Friday.

“The long-standing policy of the Faculty is well documented on the webpage for Ethnic Studies,” Knowles said. “I support the view that the study of ethnicity should be broadly and not narrowly conceived.”

Coatsworth said he and his colleagues feel that the field of Latino Studies is one which requires immediate attention.

“One of the major cultural, social and demographic trends of our time is the explosion of the Latin American origin population in the U.S.,” Coatsworth said, citing Census 2000 data. “By 2050, one quarter of the population will be of Latin American origin.”

In a statement to The Crimson Friday, senior members of the Afro-American studies department expressed their support for the creation of a Center for Latino Studies.

The statement was signed by Carswell Professor of Afro-American Studies K. Anthony Appiah, DuBois Professor of the Humanities Henry Louis Gates Jr., Climenko Professor of Law, Fletcher University Professor Cornel R. West ’74 and Geyser University Professor William Julius Wilson.

“Four of us are senior members of that department and all of us are in support of that proposal,” the statement reads.

The statement also notes that the Afro-American Studies department and the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies are currently preparing a proposal for getting “external” funding for a joint fellowship program.

“Of course everyone in Afro-American Studies believes it’s important to do work on all forms of ethnicity in the United States and around the world,” Appiah said in an interview with The Crimson. “Speaking for myself I don’t think we do enough of it in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

Appiah said there are advantages to placing a Latino Studies program within the Rockefeller Center, located on Kirkland Street, but said that location was not the key factor.

“The important thing is that the teaching and the research get done,” he said.

—Juliet J. Chung contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Kate L. Rakoczy can be reached at

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