[Letter sent on January 31, 2019]
Dear President Bacow,
Thank you again for speaking at our October Summit and engaging with so many of our members then. As we mentioned, we hope to be a resource in furthering Harvard's commitment to diversity and to the full inclusion of everyone in the University community.
We are writing today about Harvard's unacceptable lack of an Asian American Studies program and a comprehensive Ethnic Studies department, which students and alumni have advocated for over the past 47 years (see Harvard Ethnic Studies Coalition). Harvard must address this glaring hole in its academic program now. It is telling that the academic experts who have spoken out most forcefully regarding race-conscious admissions are almost all from institutions other than Harvard. Harvard has almost no faculty teaching in the area of affirmative action and education, nor those who study the shifting and potent dynamics of the Asian American community.
One of the few Harvard scholars whose work has informed the admissions debate is Professor Natasha Kumar Warikoo, whose last book explored student attitudes about diversity in admissions and whose next book addresses Asians Americans and education. At H4A's Summit in October, we honored Professor Warikoo along with Professors Ju Yon Kim and Genevieve Clutario, who heroically constitute the meager team of Asian American Studies tenured/tenure-track faculty at Harvard. In addition to teaching oversubscribed classes, they stretch themselves as advisors for too many students and as members of multiple committees addressing the need for Asian American Studies and for the greater inclusion of Asian Americans at Harvard. In December, we were dismayed to learn that Professor Warikoo, after a decade at Harvard, critically acclaimed books and numerous prestigious awards, was not put up for tenure by HGSE. And Tuesday we learned that Professor Clutario has accepted a position at Wellesley. We are shocked—and furious.
With Harvard's failure to retain important and beloved faculty in Asian American Studies, we wonder why Harvard's vaunted promise of diversity for the benefit of all students seems to exclude the faculty and academic programs in Ethnic Studies. We wonder why Harvard ignores the need for scholarship examining the economic, political, demographic, and social forces in Asian American communities, which were certainly factors leading Harvard to be embroiled in the lawsuit. We wonder how Professor Ju Yon Kim, who received tenure last year, can thrive at Harvard with no Asian American Studies colleagues, resources, or research center. We wonder how it is that in the Fall semester of 2017 there were zero courses at Harvard in Asian American Studies, fewer than the single seminar offered back in the 1980s. We wonder why Stanford, Yale, Brown, Columbia, the University of Michigan, NYU, the UC system, Wellesley, and so many other colleges offer Asian American Studies—while the best-resourced university in the world does not. We wonder how many more Asian American students must matriculate before Harvard realizes that it is ill-equipped to educate deeply informed "citizen-leaders" who understand the nuanced histories and realities of Asian Americans.
Since 2009, H4A members have donated and raised the funds for the sole Ethnic Studies professorship, now held by Professor Kim, as well as for numerous Visiting Faculty who help to cover the enormous gaps. But we are unwilling to continue to fund band-aid measures. If Harvard cares about its Asian American students and faculty, if it cares about educating students of all backgrounds who are fully ready to take on our messy, multicultural, intersectional world, please give us a plan. After 47 years, we cannot wait another minute.Thank you.
The H4A Executive Committee and Board