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FAS Dean Gay Hopes to Identify Ethnic Studies Faculty by End of Academic Year

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay discussed an ongoing search for faculty who specialize in ethnic studies.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay discussed an ongoing search for faculty who specialize in ethnic studies. By Jocelyn Wang
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences hopes to identify three to four faculty hires who specialize in ethnic studies by the end of the academic year, FAS Dean Claudine Gay said in an interview Friday.

The high-profile search, which resumed in August after a five-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, includes talks from at least five candidates in November open to Harvard affiliates.

“Our processes do take time because we try to be quite deliberate, but I’m hoping that by the end of the academic year, we’ll have made progress in identifying three to four scholars,” Gay said.

Gay said searches for hires who will join the University as tenured professors tend to take longer than searches for tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty.

“They just demand patience, but I’m optimistic,” she said. “And I’m excited about the potential of recruiting these scholars to our campus.”

In March, Gay suspended the FAS search due to the coronavirus pandemic. She announced the pause in an email to the Harvard Ethnic Studies Coalition, a student and alumni group demanding Harvard create a formal ethnic studies program.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow and other high-ranking Harvard officials subsequently declared a University-wide hiring freeze in April, which is still in place for faculty and staff.

Gay said Friday that FAS resumed the ethnic studies faculty search because it will strengthen expertise in the field at Harvard.

“The only way to ensure that we expand access to this body of knowledge is through strengthening and building and expanding our faculty capacity in this area,” Gay said. “Because this is a FAS priority, that’s why I was excited to resume the search as soon as possible.”

Harvard affiliates have pushed for a comprehensive ethnic studies program for nearly five decades; the cluster hire would not create one, but Gay has said it is a first step towards a formal program. FAS has lost several ethnic studies faculty in recent years, including Latinx studies professor Lorgia García Peña, whose tenure denial last December drew protest from students and other scholars.

In a statement last month, the Ethnic Studies Coalition said García Peña’s tenure denial is “inextricable from the cluster hire” and called on Latinx studies candidates to condition their hire on the University “reversing” that decision. The coalition’s statement acknowledged, however, that the FAS cluster hire was “bureaucratically separate” from Harvard’s tenure review process.

Gay, who has been in contact with the Ethnic Studies Coalition during the cluster hire process, declined to comment Friday on its demands.

Several prospective faculty hires are currently scheduled to speak at Harvard in November, including UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies associate professor Raúl Coronado, University of Minnesota American Studies professor Martin F. Manalansan, Stanford Sociology professor Tomás R. Jiménez, University of Southern California Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity professor Sherman Jackson, and Yale American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migrations associate professor Zareena Grewal.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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