Epps, Who 'Resisted Strongly' in '69, Says He Has Mixed Emotions in '89
When several hundred student protesters marched into University Hall 20 years ago, then-Assistant Dean of the College Archie C. Epps III wouldn't leave quietly.
As The Crimson extra of April 9, 1969 noted, "Most of the administrators put up at least token resistance and Epps resisted strongly."
And today, Epps, now dean of students, says that he is unsure whether it is appropriate to commemorate the 20th anniversary of an event that brought violence to the middle of Harvard Yard.
"I look at the reunion with mixed emotions," Epps says. "It was very upsetting and unexpected," he recalls of the experience.
The dean was twice escorted out of University Hall by the students--the second time, after he had re-entered the building to make sure that all the employees had left. "The students were very rough. They chained the doors from the inside."
But Epps concedes that the students weren't the only ones to use militant tactics--the police, too, were violent in making the arrests when they broke into University Hall in the early morning hours of April 10.
"The occupation was something like a war experience because it involved the use of violence of the kind that we had not experienced before," Epps says.
One consequence of the protest, according to Epps: A basic mistrust developed between students, who felt the administration had betrayed them by calling in outside police, and administrators who justified the act by saying that, in the words of then-President Nathan M. Pusey '28, "The survival of the University was at stake."
"The students took a hammer to a very delicate kind of institution. The immediate result was the construction of a wall of suspicion between the students and the administration," says Epps.
But Epps says he still defends the University's position in dealing with the protest. "The legacy of the crisis is in the way Harvard responded and opened itself to a consideration of the criticisms," he says.
He concedes, though, that the administration's response to the strike did not take the form that the protestors would have wanted. "The crises created an agenda for Harvard. We found answers to the problems which strengthened Harvard but would not find support among those who occupied the building," he says.
Among positive results of the strike that Epps cites are the establishment of the Afro-American Studies Department and the demotion of ROTC to the status of an extracurricular activity.
In addition, administrators re-evaluated the College's governance structure and established more joint student-faculty committees, Epps says.