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Controversial Tenure Denial at Harvard

December 4, 2019

Graduate student workers protested outside Harvard University over prolonged contract negotiations Tuesday, but elsewhere on campus, students continued their protest over the tenure denial of Lorgia García-Peña, scholar of Romance languages and literatures. “This denial strikes us as a disavowal of Harvard’s recent commitment to invest in ethnic studies,” reads a petition signed by more than 2,000 students and professors from Harvard and elsewhere. “Denying tenure to a faculty member of color who is actively serving on the committee for new hires in ethnic studies undermines Harvard’s commitment and betrays efforts to advance diversity and inclusion at this institution … Given Professor García-Peña’s academic profile, teaching record and professional service, we are dismayed and do not understand why she was denied tenure.”

The petition demands the immediate public release of tenure decision letters regarding García-Peña’s case and an investigation into procedural errors, prejudice and discrimination. Other requests are increased transparency in the tenure-review process over all and the establishment of an ethnic studies department at Harvard and plan for sustaining it.

Harvard declined to comment on any individual tenure case. Claudine Gay, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, has said ethnic studies an academic priority and previously launched a search for four new faculty members in the area of ethnicity, migration and indigeneity. García-Peña did not respond to a request for comment.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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