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Kirby’s affirmative action program unnecessary, unjust

By Luke Smith

Calling last year’s low number of tenure offers to women “a matter of some emergency,” Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby evidently confuses low percentages of women hired or tenured with evidence of discrimination (News, “FAS Diversity Drives Debate,” Oct. 20). The latter, not the former, is an “emergency” necessitating the kind of affirmative action program Kirby touts.

Although women admittedly received a mere 12.5 percent of tenure offers, there is no evidence of discrimination against them. Thus an effort exclusively to recruit women and shaft other candidates is not justified.

In Feb. 2004, Kirby breathlessly informed the Faculty in his annual letter that the percentage of female Junior Faculty members in humanities departments had dropped. But discrimination, or even an environment subtly hostile to female scholarship, seemed an unlikely explanation for that trend, given substantial representation of women in the departments’ hiring decisions.

Fueling the present hysteria, University President Lawrence H. Summers cites “habits of mind that lead to a kind of passive discrimination,” a paltry justification short on details. If Summers believes that discrimination is a real problem on Harvard’s hiring and tenure committees, then he owes everyone an explanation highlighting the specifics of his charge. But the only “habits of mind” leading to “passive discrimination” I perceive is the growing animus, encouraged by Kirby and Summers, to penalize qualified men and boost percentages that make Harvard look good.

LUKE SMITH ‘04

Los Angeles, Calif.

October 20

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