Harvard Students Stage Sit-In Protest After Professor Denied Tenure

The Associated Press
Elise Amendola/Harvard

50 Harvard students occupied a campus building on Monday to protest the university’s decision to deny tenure to professor García Peña, who they argue should be part of a ethnic studies program they are also demanding. Over  4,000 students signed a petition that calls on the university to release confidential communications between Harvard officials regarding Peña’s tenure review.

According to a report by the Crimson, Harvard students are up in arms over a decision to deny tenure to Professor García Peña, who teaches Romance Languages and Literature at the university.

Harvard student protesters staged a sit-in protest in a campus building on Monday to draw attention to their concerns that García was treated unfairly. The students specifically allege that “prejudice” and “discrimination” were the motivating factors behind the decision to deny García’s tenure. According to the students, García should be involved in the creation of a ethnic studies department at Harvard.

Students published a petition that has garnered over 4,000 signatures. The petition calls on Harvard to explain how they make their tenure decisions. The students claim, more specifically, that they want to know why Peña was denied tenure. 

The university’s refusal to make tenure decisions with transparency is premised upon anonymity. Professor García-Peña’s tenure case confirms that the current model of anonymity allows individuals in positions of power, who are non-experts in the field, to play a decisive role without accountability. The current “confidentiality” of the tenure review process does not protect those who stand to be most affected by the abuse of power; on the contrary, in the name of “confidentiality,” anonymity insulates power from accountability. We call for tenure decisions to be made with transparency because in Professor García-Peña’s case we see no adequate reason why Harvard has denied her tenure.

The students occupied the building for 48 minutes to honor the 48 years that students have been pushing for an official ethnic studies program at Harvard University. Students argue in the petition García should not only be granted tenure but also be considered as a candidate to serve as the head of a newly formed ethnic studies program.

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