Epps on Race Relations

THE MAIL

To the Editors of The Crimson:

It might be helpful to describe the purposes and goals of the Committee on Race Relations at the College. The committee was invited to serve by the Dean of Students and is expected to consult with other officers of administration when appropriate. It was hoped the Committee could help understand the state of race relations and what could be done to improve them. In asking members to serve, it was expected that through their skills an analysis and set of recommendations could be provided whose quality would offer a blueprint for the community and find support among its members. The Committee was also established to create a dialogue on race relations and associated issues. It was asked to explore three specific aspects of these relations:

1)To review the pattern of interaction between white and non-white students.

2)To review whether race plays a role in creating a learning and social environment that strengthens the gains made by minorities, or whether these groups are discouraged in major and minor ways.

3)To examine improvements in race relations that have been made at Harvard and make recommendations aimed at building on these gains.

Several members of the Committee have asked that special attention be given the issue of Mexican and Puerto Rican representation in the College, and that the Committee also monitor its recommendations. It has agreed to both requests.

A number of speakers at the open meeting on Monday, March 6, revealed what appear to be serious concerns. This input was considered crucial for the Committee to begin its evaluative work. In particular, it should be understood that some of the racial incidents reported at the meeting are unverified and should, in any case, not be taken to characterize accurately any House in the College. The Committee is well aware that such incidents may be viewed differently by the participants and that race issues seem especially to provoke suspicion and rumor.

It was and is my view that the College is perhaps in a unique position to address the issue of how people of different races may better live together. I had the sense that we all share a hidden ideal in race relations, which is that at least at our College, the long-unsuccessful struggle over race may be set aside in its most destructive expressions. Instead, excellence in such relationships should hopefully take its place alongside tolerance for different ideas as a Harvard tradition that sets us apart from society. Such a goal will have to be shared by minority and non-minority to work.

In the end, the results of the Committee's deliberations and its impact on the College will depend, as it should, only upon the quality of its efforts. --Archie C. Epps III