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Harvard Civil Rights Project Moves to UCLA

The Civil Rights Project will move next year from Harvard University to the University of California, Los Angeles, where it will have access to a more diverse faculty and take on more issues, including those affecting Hispanics.

Renamed the Civil Rights Project/El Proyecto de CRP, it will be led by current director and co-founder Dr. Gary Orfield and professor Dr. Patricia Gándara from UC-Davis. Both are joining the UCLA faculty.

The project will add a stronger focus on issues of critical importance to the Western and Southwestern United States, including immigration and language discrimination, says Dr. Aimée Dorr, dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

“Each [professor] brings exceptional expertise and vision to work on some of the most important problems of our time … the project will be a vibrant addition to the campus,” she says.

Orfield could not be reached for comment. However, in an interview with The Harvard Crimson, he said that UCLA had a “more conducive atmosphere to studying civil rights.” More UCLA faculty members are involved in civil rights research, while there are “very few senior faculty members at Harvard who have real experience in civil rights litigation and research,” he added.

While race did not necessarily determine a faculty member’s interest in studying civil rights, Orfield said “people who come from an African-American, Latino or Native American background have distinctive perspectives and raise issues that other faculty don’t as well.”

He also noted that there is “very little capacity at Harvard to study Latino rights issues. There needs to be more of this work in the social sciences.”

Harvard officials say some faculty attrition is inevitable.

“Professor Orfield will be missed,” university spokesman John Longbrake told  The Associated Press. “Harvard has been very supportive of the work and mission of the Civil Rights Project, and will continue to be supportive of other efforts in these areas at the university.”

According to UCLA faculty statistics, 6.9 percent of women faculty members and 14.9 percent of male faculty members are Black, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian.

The CRP/El Proyecto will continue to work on national issues such as school segregation and the school dropout crisis, but will also focus on California and local policy issues. The project plans to work actively with non-English language media to reach a broader portion of the public, issuing reports in Spanish as well as English. It will maintain some staff in Cambridge, Mass., where Harvard is located, as well as in other locations.

“The move will enable us to work with the university’s centers of research and with scholars who are dedicated to civil rights action and study. We can then focus more sharply on state and national issues,” says Gándara.

The project’s work was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2003 decision upholding affirmative action in college admissions. The Civil Rights Project recently coordinated the submission of a friend-of-the-court brief signed by 553 scholars at more than 200 institutions in 42 states in support of two cases currently before the Supreme Court, which will determine the future of voluntary integration in public schools.

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