Removing the Red Tape
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III is shaking up University Hall in an effort to reform how the College handles campus problems with race relations. After presiding over an inefficient bureaucracy last year as the College's Race Czar, he is fin
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.
Epps says the students will be chosen by an application process in December, and the training program will begin in January.
The idea for a mediation service stemmed from a report Epps commissioned last spring from the Negotiations Project, a group of conflict resolution professional sponsored by the Law School. Epps says the report highlighted the College's problems in discussing issues of race and recommended the service as a means of addressing these problems.
Epps has also taken on the duties of former Assistant Dean of Race Relations and Minority Affairs, Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, the first and only director of the Office of Race Relations.
Jewett says the resignation of Gravelle prompted Epps to reorganize the structure of the various race relations committees, linking the areas of race relations and the Dean of Students' Office.
"The areas are in fact naturally tied together since race relations among the students certainly concerns the dean of students' office," he says.
Another aspect of the new plan is a four-person council of clinicians which will aid Epps in dealing with specific racial situations that may arise. The council includes Assistant Dean of Students Sarah Flatley, the Assistant Director of the Office of Career Services Andrea Diaz, Bureau of Study Counsellor Niti Seth and Professor of Education Emeritus Kyo Morimoto.
Epps says he needs these clinicians to replace Gravelle, who resigned over the summer as director of the Office of Race Relations.
He has also appointed a Faculty Race Relations Advisory Committee to the Harvard Foundation. The committee makes the final decisions on proposals made by the Student Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Foundation.
The FRRAC has seven faculty members, including Foundation Director S. Allen Counter and Appiah.
Most of these faculty are former members of the Operations or Appiah committees, including Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences John E. Dowling '57, Associate Minister of Memorial Church Preston B. Hannibal and Rabbi Sally Finestone of Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel.
Epps says he did not need authorization for the formation of this committee because "the [FRRAC] always existed, it was just called something else."
Counter says the addition of the new faculty members were discussed with him before they were added to the committee and he welcomes new participants.
Six students from the SAC are also members of the FRRAC, according to Epps. Two of the students are the SAC chairs Oswaldo A. Rubio '95 and Kimberly A. Patillo '96.
The first meeting of the FRRAC was last Friday, during which the committee approved the fall grants proposed by the SAC.
Although the Operations Committee has been discontinued, Epps says students and faculty on the FRRAC will still have the opportunity to discuss issues of race and "students will be involved in race relations decisions."
"You don't have as many faculty directly involved in the governance of the area," he says, "but they are involved in other ways."
This fall, 70 faculty members, including senior faculty, entered the first year dorms to discuss racial issues with proctor groups.
A handbook on race relations at the college was distributed to the houses and dorms last spring, and a second handbook will be distributed in the near future.
The second book consists of student and faculty-written essays on various aspects of the situation of race, and an introductory essay by Epps himself titled "The Common Pursuit."
"I have a strong philosophy of race relations work which is articulated in the essay," Epps says. "The title itself suggests what I think. You want to stress the common experience of people with different backgrounds and not their differences."
Epps took charge of the College's policies on race relations after the campus tensions during the spring of 1992. He later admitted he was "out of touch" that spring when the Black Students Association distributed a flyer titled "On the Harvard Plantation" stating a battery of grievances against the College.
Epps says he has no plans to further modify the race relations hierarchy and will continue to oversee the entire issue. But he says in the future he may need more help if it becomes too difficult for one person to handle.
"[Epps] is not saying that this is necessarily the final staffing arrangement," Jewett says. "He's trying some new things, and we'll want to assess how they work through this year."
Epps admits he has been in the "hot seat" due to racial tensions within the College. Yet he says he still wants to preside over the area of race relations.
"You cannot do this work without being at the point of tension," Epps says. "I have to do that for the College. I have to take the risk."