Last year, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III presided over a morass of slow-moving and overlapping committees as the College's first race czar. His initial approach to the College' problems with race relations was a typical Harvard response: start committees and wait for their reports.
This fall, however, Epps has greased the wheels of the Harvard bureaucracy, reorganizing the various College committees on race relations to eliminate redundancy.
Where previously the College depended on the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural Affairs and Race Relations, the Office of Race Relations and Minority Affairs, and a student-faculty Operations Committee to ensure healthy race relations on campus, now Epps stands alone.
"I wanted direct contact with students, tutors, and proctors, myself," Epps says. "[The consolidation] helped to simplify the bureaucratic structure."
The two "pillars" that Epps has created to support him are the Harvard Mediation Service, led by conflict resolution experts, and the Harvard Foundation, which funds multicultural activities.
Epps shut down the Office of Race Relations and Minority Affairs two weeks ago. He has also consolidated a faculty committee led by Professor of Afro-American Studies K. Anthony Appiah and the Operations Committee into the Faculty Race Relations Advisory Committee (FRRAC) to the Foundation. Epps chairs the FRRAC.
The Appiah committee sought long-term solutions to the College's race related problems while the Operations committee, which Epps chaired, responded to more immediate concerns.
Epps says the need to restructure the race relations hierarchy arose due to the confusing nature of the numerous, and often overlapping, committees.
"Everybody kept calling for simplification," he says. "Students said they didn't know who to go to."
Epps has exerted an extraordinary degree of authority in reshaping the College's race relations bureaucracy. Appointed coordinator of race relations by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles in the fall of 1992, he has wielded considerable power for the College's second highest official.
"I've felt that it is better," says Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, "as he has been charged with managing race relations, that he be given some degree of flexibility."
Epps justifies the proliferation of committees in the past years by saying, "it led to the involvement of a great number of students and faculty."
He also says the large number of committees brought the issue of race relations to the attention of the University administration.
Epps' Harvard Mediation Service is a group of faculty, students and tutors trained to handle race-related problems and to take pro-active measures to improve conversations about race.
The service will involve students trained as moderators to intervene in racial conflicts and seek out other members of campus organizations to be trained in conflict resolution.