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Joseph Williams // CC BY 2.0

The departure of two tenure-track professors who specialize in Asian American Studies at Harvard University has prompted three student and alumni groups to call on Harvard to create an official ethnic studies program.

Three groups at Harvard have denounced the departures of the two professors and sent letters to Harvard's president last week, including the Harvard Ethnic Studies Coalition, the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, and the Coalition For a Diverse Harvard. The HAAAA said the professors were members of multiple committees advocating for Asian American Studies as well as better inclusion of Asian Americans at Harvard.

After not being granted tenure in December 2018, Harvard professor of Education Natasha Warikoo will leave the university. Professor of History Genevieve Clutario will also leave Harvard for a position at Wellesley College. Warikoo is an expert on racial and ethnic inequality in education and Clutario specializes in Asian-American history.

"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,” HAAAA board members wrote in their letter.

Penn has faced similar protests surrounding the lack of support for the Asian American Studies program.

Penn's ASAM program has been mired in controversy since the departure of standing faculty member and Sociology professor Grace Kao in January 2017, sparking protests across campus. While long-standing ASAM faculty member and English professor Josephine Park took over as interim director of the program last semester, it remains unclear whether Penn is actively searching for a permanent ASAM director or additional standing faculty members.

Organizer for the Ethnic Studies Coalition Sally Chen told the Harvard Crimson that Harvard needs a dedicated ethnic studies program to avoid the further loss of faculty.

In 2009, Harvard created a secondary field called Ethnicity, Migration, Rights. In 2017 the Committee on Degrees in History & Literature added an ethnic studies specialization.

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Dean Claudine Gay told the Crimson in October that she planned to recruit relevant faculty and meet ethnic studies advocates before making plans for a formalized ethnic studies program.

Calls for faculty and courses focused on ethnic and Asian-American studies at Harvard also come as the college faces an ongoing lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian Americans in the university’s admission process.

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