Students at the Ivy League school protested on Monday after the university's only Latina professor on track for tenure was denied the academic appointment.
After administrators at Harvard University denied professor Lorgia García Peña's tenure, students sent a letter asking for the decision to be reversed, according to Remezcla.
García Peña is one of the university's first Latino studies professor.
Students also requested for administrators to "increase transparency in the tenure review process for all faculty, providing more lines of accountability and greater consideration of the ways in which faculty have contributed to supporting underrepresented students on campus."
According to The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, the school president makes the final decision to grant a professor tenure and the details about the case aren't typically released to the public.
The letter sent to administrators was signed by 200 students and 30 student groups. Another letter written by Harvard professors and affiliates received 972 signatures.
Administrators were asked to open an investigation into the professor's tenure case for "procedural errors, prejudice, and discrimination."
Among their list of demands, students called on the school to implement an ethnic studies program, an effort students have been requesting for almost half a century.
The letter requests for an ethnic studies department to offer a Ph.D. in the program with concentrations in Native American and Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, Muslim American and comparative race and ethnic studies.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said before taking office in fall 2018 that she wanted to employ faculty in the respective studies before establishing a program.
Students said García Peña was an "excellent candidate to lead Ethnic Studies initiatives.”
“While looking outwardly for faculty members that can conduct and teach Ethnic Studies research, it is absolutely unacceptable to deny Professor García Peña tenure, especially as a member of the search committee herself,” the open letter states. “It is hypocritical for University administrators to claim they are invested in furthering Ethnic Studies scholarship at Harvard while simultaneously denying tenure to a leading Latinx and Ethnic Studies scholar.”
In protest, nearly 50 students held a sit-in at the University Hall that lasted 48 minutes, each minute representing the number of years students have demanded an ethnic studies program.
Student Mercedes Gomez said in a tweet on Monday that the university has denied students' requests for an ethnic studies department despite demonstrations.
The Harvard Crimson reports the associate professor of romance languages and literature has faced racially motivated incidents while at the university.
Just last week, Harvard denied tenure to the only Latina professor on the tenure track. On top of that, Harvard has refused to create an Ethnic Studies department despite 48 years of student activism. Today, we stood up to the administration. https://t.co/FTnPAyIJJg— mercedes (@gomezsb_) December 2, 2019
Someone reportedly left a racially insulting note at García Peña's office and questioned her right to be at Harvard University. Another incident was reported of on-campus officers unreasonably asking for the IDs of the professor's students while they were installing an art exhibit.
In the letter sent to administrators, students said the university has failed to address the incidents sufficiently.