Urgent Letter on Ethnic Studies from Coalition for a Diverse Harvard to President Lawrence S. Bacow
January 31, 2019
[Yesterday,] we were reeling from the news that Harvard has lost Genevieve Clutario, Assistant Professor of History and of History and Literature, to Wellesley, following closely the tenure denial of Natasha Warikoo, Associate Professor of Education. Harvard’s failure to retain these Asian American and Ethnic Studies scholars is a devastating blow to the University’s already woefully inadequate Ethnic Studies offerings. (Our June letter to you on Ethnic Studies is attached with enclosures [HESC Petition and Presidential Task Force Solution Space Posts and Comments].)
The trial testimony of Asian American and other students and alumni of color highlighted the critical role that even Harvard’s few Ethnic Studies courses have played in their academic development. Moreover, those courses have contributed profoundly to promoting a sense of diversity, inclusion, and belonging , both in the classroom and in the University community.
The support that SFFA has been able to garner speaks loudly to the need for a comprehensive Ethnic Studies program — including, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latinx Studies, and Native American Studies — and a research center on race and ethnicity. Learning about the complex histories of these groups and the multiple experiences of identity in context is vital to fostering cross-racial and -ethnic understanding. We ask this for ALL students because we know the power of standing together and how much we have to learn from and about one another.
You will be hearing more formally from the Harvard Ethnic Studies Coalition, of which we are a part, soon. But we wanted to let you know that the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard will be focusing its energies on pressing the University to immediately establish a comprehensive Ethnic Studies program, and we hope you will lead these efforts. While Harvard forcefully demonstrated its commitment to admitting students of color during the trial, it must now show a similar commitment to responsibly educating these students once they arrive on campus.
Jane, Margaret, Jeannie, Kristin, and Michael
Jane Sujen Bock '81, Margaret M. Chin '84, Jeannie Park '83, Kristin R. Penner '89, & Michael Williams '81
Board of Directors, Coalition for a Diverse Harvard