Speaking before a crowd of 200 professors, administrators, and students at the Queen’s Head Pub on Wednesday, Faust fueled optimism among black leaders that her presidency will be a turning point for the black community at Harvard. After former University President Lawrence H. Summers’ tenure, which was marked by tension with some African-American scholars (see story, left), some black leaders say they see Faust as the antidote.
“The fact that she is in this room provides a striking difference from some past presidents,” Professor of Anthropology and of African and African American Studies J. Lorand Matory ’82 said at the reception for the Association of Black Faculty, Administrators, and Fellows, which he co-chairs. While introducing Faust, Matory remembered Summers’ tenure as a time of frustration.
Faust, who was greeted to applause and cheers, said she was eager to take on the challenge of making the University more diverse—to the point where Harvard’s black scholars and staff would no longer be able to squeeze into Queen’s Head Pub.
“One of our goals is, three years from now, maybe, we can’t have this party here anymore, it’s going to be so big,” Faust said. “First, we’re going to move up to Annenberg. Next, we’re going to have to go to the stadium.”
Wednesday’s formal-dress reception marked not only a new relationship between Harvard’s president and black community, but also one among members of that community.
In the dim light of the pub, students in bow ties mingled with professors in suits, while administrators from different schools sipped drinks together. A jazz singer crooned in the background.
“There hasn’t been such a gathering in my years,” said Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes, who has worked in Harvard’s Memorial Church since 1970.
But the living wasn’t always this easy, said Association co-chair John F. Gates, associate dean for administration and finance.
“The past five years reflect a period when Harvard’s black community felt particularly unwelcome and disenfranchised, mainly because the University’s leadership at the time was disinterested in, and even hostile toward matters of race and inclusion,” Gates wrote in an e-mail yesterday. “Rather than engage in a protracted battle for recognition, people simply sat that administration out.”
Summers declined to comment for this story.
Only 5.8 percent of Harvard’s non-teaching staff are black, Gates wrote.
According to the 2007 report on faculty development and diversity, only 1.2 percent of ladder faculty in the natural sciences are black.
There was only one black tenured professor in the humanities, according to the report.
“Harvard’s student population is very diverse, but the faculty and administrative population does not reflect the makeup of the student body,” Gates said.
Wednesday’s reception marked a revival for the three-decade-old Association of Black Faculty, Administrators, and Fellows, which had largely lain inactive over the past five years, according to Matory and Gates, the association’s co-chairs.
“[Faust’s] announcement breathed new life into Harvard and also into the association,” Gates said.
During her speech, Faust spoke of an obligation to change the face of the school during the Class of 2011’s four years on campus.
“We owe it to them that by the time they graduate this is a different Harvard,” Faust said.
—Staff writer Lois E. Beckett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.