Gay Announces Plans to Hire New Ethnic Studies Faculty


Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay will hire three to four senior faculty to specialize in Asian American, Latinx, and Muslim American studies during the upcoming academic year, the University announced Monday.

The hiring push could be the first step towards establishing a new concentration in ethnicity and migration, Gay told the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication. Students and alumni staged a demonstration and sent multiple letters to University administrators earlier this year calling for an ethnic studies program at the University, marking the latest push in a decades-long effort.

Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey and Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo are overseeing the hiring effort alongside Gay. The two deans are currently forming a faculty search committee, which will be led by Sociology Professor Mary C. Waters and by Mayra Rivera, the chair of FAS’s standing committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights.

Currently, the College offers an EMR secondary as well as an Ethnic Studies track within the History and Literature concentration. Activists, however, have called these insufficient, pointing to ethnic studies programs at peer institutions such as Yale.


Administrators previously have not outright rejected demands to create a formalized ethnic studies program but also have not committed to doing so. Gay’s comments Monday represent the furthest administrators have gone in recent years to acknowledge the possibility of creating such a program.

The University’s announcement Monday came after a year marked by student outcry over tenure decisions for faculty across the University whose scholarship includes work in ethnic studies.

In February, students and alumni protested the departure of two tenure-track faculty who specialize in Asian American studies, Associate Professor of Education Natasha K. Warikoo at the Graduate School of Education and Assistant Professor of History Genevieve A. Clutario in FAS. The University decided in November 2018 not to put Warikoo up for tenure, and Clutario accepted a tenured position at Wellesley College.

And in April, students and alumni of FAS and Harvard Divinity School circulated petitions decrying the Divinity School’s decision not to grant tenure to Ahmed Ragab. One letter specifically cited Ragab’s research in the field of Muslim studies, arguing that his work fills a “crucial gap” in scholarship on the topic at Harvard.

In an interview soon after taking office, Gay said she planned to concentrate on hiring faculty who focus on race and ethnicity before considering the establishment of a formal program. And in a March interview, Gay announced FAS has recruited three early-career scholars in Social Studies and Sociology who focus on ethnicity, migration, and indigeneity. The new recruits will join the faculty this fall.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.