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Friday, May 20, 2005

a lazy continuation

Because I am far too tired to come up with another line of inquiry (or entertaining thought) right now, let's extend the previous one. The question at hand is: why is it that the two top people at each of these five organizations, the leaders of the "establishment", are all white and mostly male and (so far as I know) all straight?

We seem to have hit a snag, in that it has been pointed out that my sample (10 people, one year) is so small that it is statistically insignificant. Unfortunately, seeing as how this is a blog and not a newspaper, I have no plans to start doing actual reporting to try to expand my sample. In fact, in the face of the social science naysayers, I'm going to stick by my claim. Problems may differ from organization to organization, and for different reasons, but it still seems to me that "the establishment" is overwhelmingly white, male and straight. I guess, if we really wanted to start to tackle problems and get into "real" analysis, we could pick one and start to disaggregate the numbers and point to real solutions. Who wants to start?

1 Comments:

At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a theory which focuses on the UC, IOP, Dems, and HRC, but not on the Crimson (which has always had a president who belongs to at least one of the categories of non-male, non-white, non-heterosexual during my time at Harvard).

My guess is that the most of leaders of the 4 organizations in question have long term political aspirations of their own, and (not that they shouldn't) see their leadership positions in these powerful political organizations as one of the stepping stones to that goal. Few will admit to being "that kid who wants to be president someday," but let's be honest, if you are one of those kids, rising to the top of these organizations is a great start to a fledgling political career. These student leaders are on one of Harvard's most prestigous "pre-politician" tracks that often continues with a cushy political internship, perhaps law school, and a return to their homestate to enter politics.

Regardless of where Glazer, Schmidt, Kaden, and Downer actually see themselves in 20 years, what's important is that the perception on campus is that they are engaged in the pre-politician track. No one doubts their commitment to the mission statements of their respective organizations, but all four are also presumed to be politically ambitious in the long term, a perception that is reinforced by the extensive and professional quality campus-wide campaigns that helped these guys get elected.

I know we're not in a position to conduct a survey, but I would bet that if we surveyed the campus to see who in the student body was on a pre-politican track (in some form or another), we would see the highest rate among white heterosexual men. Even if we did something simple along the lines of "do you see yourself as a senator someday," we would find that white heterosexual men would answer "yes" at a higher rate than any other group. Because we live in a sexist/racist/homophobic system where state and national politics are dominated by white heterosexual men, its easy to understand why non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male students might be less inclined to take the pre-politician track, the paradigm of this track being leadership in organizations like the UC, HRC, Dems, and especially the IOP.

This, of course, is only one potential factor at play, but at a place like Harvard where both ambition and perception of ambition are so important, I think the theory sounds reasonable.

The theory doesn't necessarily explain the homogeny of the membership of these organizations however because I don't think simple membership is necessarily precieved as a part of a pre-politican track the way leadership is.

 

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