Sept. 19, 2017
Dear Mr. Lee and the Harvard Presidential Search Committee,
Thank you for your request for input into the search process for Harvard’s next president. The Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, which represents more than 5,000 alumni across the globe and among all of Harvard’s schools, urges you to take into account the concerns of our membership in your search.
We recognize that the Search Committee is considering a vast number of factors in its selection. No candidate can be everything to everyone. But particularly in these factious times, we call upon you to prioritize candidates that will commit to continuing President Faust’s agenda to heighten the University's commitment to diversity and inclusion and fairness.
Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic or racial group in the U.S.—a fact that is certain to continue to shape the demographics of Harvard—and yet we are frequently left out of.conversations and decisions around race at the University. We need the next president to have a nuanced understanding of issues of race and ethnicity and to lead Harvard always to look beyond the Black-white binary that is so often the default.
The ongoing debate being hashed out in the courts regarding admissions at Harvard is a sensitive topic among Asian American alumni of Harvard. While we support race-aware admissions, we are troubled by assertions of bias against Asian American applicants. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, we expect that the new president will do whatever necessary to ensure that the admissions process is free of any and all bias against applicants of Asian heritage and will be able to refute conclusively any assertions to the contrary.
Despite 45 years of student, faculty and alumni advocacy, Harvard still lacks an Asian American Studies program and a serious broader ethnic studies curriculum. In a time
when concerned citizens grapple daily with issues of race, ethnicity and immigration, the absence of serious and focused Harvard scholarship in areas of race beyond African American Studies is a glaring gap. We expect the next president to support a comprehensive ethnic studies program that will attract leading scholars and prepare students for the challenges of our future.
Thank you for considering our concerns. We are happy to answer any questions or provide further input. We look forward to working with the next president to ensure that Harvard meets its ideals in the areas of diversity and equality.
William Yao, AB '90
President, Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance
for the Board and Members of the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance