Knowles, Diversity Coalition Meet

Discussion Called 'Positive,' 'Helpful,' But Students Are Still Skeptical

Representatives of the Coalition for Diversity met with Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and three other deans for an early morning breakfast meeting yesterday, but failed to make any concrete advances in their push for an ethnic studies program, according to coalition members.

The group of University officials, which included Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell and Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, told the coalition that the University must consider financial and time requirements before diversifying the faculty or offering ethnic studies courses, according to Joan R. Cheng '95, co-president of the Asian American Association.

The 11 student minority organization leaders expressed their desire to institutionalize ethnic studies as a curricular program rather than being forced to depend on the availability of visiting scholars to teach selected courses, Cheng said.

This past year, two scholars who were scheduled to teach courses in Asian American and in Puerto Rican literature could not fulfill their teaching obligations. In the absence of the two professors, the courses were not taught.

Knowles said yesterday he is open to discussing the process of increasing ethnic studies. He said an ethnic studies subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee will discuss the concerns of students at its meeting next Monday.

Knowles called yesterday's meeting a "very helpful discussion."

"It's very important that our students understand the structure of the [Faculty of Arts and Sciences], how things happen, and how things are done," he said. "And it's very important that the faculty and the administration understand the concerns of the students."

Coalition members called the deans supportive of their demands, although the administrators offered no concrete pledge to take administrative action.

"The meeting was positive," said Julia Reyes '95, president of La O. "For now they are listening to us, but I'm skeptical of everything at this point. I don't think things will just turn around."

Reyes added that she felt the coalition made no substantive progress from the two-hour meeting.

Cheng said the meeting marked the administration's acknowledgment of the coalition's determination to see its demands realized. "They realize now how important this is to us," Cheng said.

The meeting rounded off a series of meetings with five top-ranking officials over the past week, including President Neil L. Rudenstine. The group first mobilized two weeks ago to protest an alleged lack of diversity at a Junior Parents' Weekend panel and issued a list of demands on a flyer, "The Peculiar Institution."

Alessandra M. Galloni contributed to the reporting of this story.