Widespread Protests Over Harvard’s Tenure Decision for Latinx Professor

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Dec 10, 2019

Harvard University’s Roy G. Clouse Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Lorgia García Peña has made national news as hundreds have protested on her behalf to demand the school reverse course on its denial of her tenure, the Boston Globe reported yesterday (December 9). 

The Latinx studies expert–who teaches courses in Hispanic Caribbean literature and culture, performance studies, race and ethnicity, transnational feminism, migration, human rights, Dominican and Dominican diaspora studies, according to her faculty page–inspired more than 200 scholars from across the country to pen a letter to Harvard’s president Lawrence Bacow. “It is nearly impossible to find new work in the humanities around Dominican or Latinx Studies that does not cite or reference Dr. García Peña’s scholarship in some form,” reads the letter. “Not only has Dr. García Peña been instrumental in putting the Dominican Republic more centrally into discussion of race and national identity across the hemisphere and providing innovative new methodologies in the process, but she has provided a groundbreaking model from which to discuss issues of blackness and diasporic belonging.” The three-page letter includes 26 pages of signed supporters. 

In addition to García Peña, The Globe reported there are several professors of color who have been denied tenure over the past two years. “Harvard’s denial of Dr. García Peña’s tenure is a testament to the ways that Black and Latinx Studies continue to be ignored as sites of vital knowledge production in the academy,” scholar and feminist author bell hooks, one of the signees, told The Globe

In a community-wide response yesterday, Claudine Gay, the dean of Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences and a professor of government and African and African-American studies, said the creation of an ethnic studies department is currently in the works. “This effort is at a delicate stage, and it needs support and nourishment from those who are invested in the future of ethnic studies at Harvard,” Gay reportedly said in her message. “Today, I am asking not for your patience, because I agree we have all waited long enough. I am asking for your resolve.”

Resolve may be a hard ask if supporters of García Peña do not see a resolution for her. “To deny tenure to one of the most prominent Latinx scholars in the nation who has tirelessly dedicated her time and labor to students and colleagues is an ill-advised decision that has consequences beyond an individual person," Ph.D student Laura Grisel said in a statement reported by WBUR. “This is clearly an act of discrimination and racism, and it is detrimental to the scholarship of marginalized students on this campus.”