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Published Monday, May 10, 2004
Administration Offers Unsatisfactory Responses to Diversity Drought
By Minnie Quach

Although the HGSE administration has invited two potential candidates from underrepresented backgrounds for faculty hiring this year, students have not seen any public announcement of support for hiring anyone anytime soon. Unfortunately, the exit of faculty of color is occurring at a higher rate than their replacement over the past decade or so - as far as I've heard from concerned students and alumni who have witnessed this phenomenon over time. Both the HGSE and the central administration at Harvard University do not appear to be recognizing how urgently this needs to be addressed.

HGSE'S low representation of faculty of color results in huge gaps in other areas of the school community. The lack of diverse faculty is linked to 1) the inadequate course offerings from different perspectives - such as those that concern gender, race, class, critical theory, and so on; 2) the lack of potential mentors and advisors for students of color or students from other underrepresented backgrounds or interests; and 3) increased feelings of frustration, isolation, and invalidation among many students who are disappointed with the institution’s lack of concern with issues of diversity both within and outside of the classroom and the adverse affect this gap has had on students’ experiences at HGSE. With a diverse student body, the school should be equipped with a sufficiently diverse administration and the appropriate resources to meet the academic, intellectual, and other relevant needs of the students. Not only do I feel this is not currently the case, but I believe the situation will worsen with Professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco's departure.

As the senior faculty comprise the primary body that decides whom to invite to the school, the severe lack of senior faculty of color in that body may hinder the process – as candidates for future hiring will take into account HGSE's history of faculty resignations and the now quite embarrassingly un-diverse administration. It will be very difficult to recruit, support, and, perhaps most importantly, retain faculty of color if they are, or are perceived as, a poorly supported minority. Without a critical mass of faculty from underrepresented backgrounds, the faculty may be plagued with a self-perpetuating cycle of high turnover, resulting in disrupted student learning experiences. The impact of the slow, bureaucratic process of hiring of faculty on the academic life of HGSE is especially significant as entire classes of one-year Masters students may come and go about five or so times before a new senior faculty member is even hired, and Doctoral students who have lost their advisors may experience the resulting void up until the time they complete their training.

Overall, HGSE has not appeared to actively address the issue of faculty diversity, or to adequately provide support for current students as they witness the exodus of faculty that may have inspired them to enroll in the institution in the first place. If the administration does not act quickly to push for immediate strategies to increase faculty diversity, HGSE may fail to recruit many talented and innovative students who use it as an important indicator for ensuring a relevant and high-quality educational experience. The HGSE community will thus face a double loss, as it will not only suffer from the impact of less diverse faculty, but also the potential impact of less diverse students.

Minnie Quach, an Ed.M. candidate in International Education Policy, is the president of the Student Government Association.