Council Plans Afro-Am Forum
Representatives Fear Concentrators Will Not Attend
The Undergraduate Council last night resolved to hold an open forum on the troubled Afro-American Studies Department, even though council members said they were unsure whether Afro-Am concentrators or administrators would participate.
Although opposed by a minority of representatives who said that a forum unattended by the two parties most relevant to the dispute would be "a waste," the body voted to hold a debate on January 31, titled "The Afro-American Studies Issue: What the Harvard Administration Should Do."
The debate will feature a panel of up to three undergraduates and two administrators or faculty members, along with an open microphone for members of the audience.
Adam D. Taxin '93, who moved the resolution, said that the forum was designed to foster open debate on the issue, but said Afro-Am concentrators said they would not participate in the forum "for reasons which are secret." Taxin declined to name the undergraduates in question.
"The Afro-Am concentrators will not be there," Taxin said. "Their line of thinking is that they're better off not having to debate."
The council cancelled a previously planned forum in December because representatives of the Afro-Am concentrators decided not to participate.
Many council members argued that without the presence of the concentrators, a January forum would be of little value.
"It doesn't make sense for us to talk about the concentration when no one in the concentration is there,' said Alliric I. Willis '91, the chair of the council's finance committee. "It's just a waste."
But the majority of the council voted to go ahead and hold the forum regardless of whether the concentrators choose to attend.
"I think what this forum is intended to do is stir debate on [the issue]," said residential committee chair Daniel H. Tabak '92, arguing that the event was not simply a show of support for the protesting Afro-Am concentrators.
"If we involve the appropriate people, if they choose not to come that's not our fault," he said. "We should not come into this with a particular point of view. We should let people there make up their own minds."
Members of the department last night confirmed that they were not planning to speak at the event.
Afro-am concentrator Jeanne F. Theoharis '91said that the concentrators opted against speakingat the December forum because they were busymeeting potential Afro-am professors who came forjob interviews on campus.
"There was other stuff we needed to be doing,"she said. "We only have so much time, we only haveso much energy. It was mostly an issue of time."
Theoharis said that the concentrators probablywouldn't speak at the January 31 forum, either.
"Concentrators aren't the only people who cantalk on the importance of Afro-American studies,"she said.
Council members also said they were unsurewhether any administrators or members of thefaculty would attend.
This fall a group of Afro-Am concentrators, ina demonstration of frustration at the state oftheir department, occupied University Hallover-night, while a larger group staged protestsoutside. The department currently has only onetenured faculty member, who will be on leave nextsemester.
In other business, the council voted to hold aformal dance for first-year students onValentine's Day