Mediation Service Still In Organizational Stage

News Analysis

Eight months after Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III established the Harvard Mediation Service, the group is still in the organizational stage. Though the service has an office in Holworthy basement, it remains to be seen whether anyone will use it.

Epps said in an interview yesterday that the group will not actively take on its role of conflict negotiation until they have solidified their structure.

"The service is still in its infancy," Epps said. "We are in the phase of having organizational meetings to adopt operational rules."

The mediation service is a body of students, faculty and administrators trained to negotiate conflicts between campus organizations and among individual students.

It was conceived in order to improve dialogue about race relations on campus.

"We have trouble discussing race at Harvard," Epps said. "Everyone wants to improve race relations but wants to improve race relations but they don't quite know how to do it."

But Xavier Gutierrez '95, co-president of Raza, said he fears the service will be treated as the only solution to a complicated problem.

"The positive step is that something is being done," Gutierrez said. "But I certainly don't think its the complete answer."

While Epps agreed that the service is only "part of the solution," he said he hopes "the existence of the service may insure that there are not many disputes" among campus organizations.

By educating different members of the Harvard community, Epps said he hopes to eliminate the problems that cause conflict.

The service was created as an innovative approach to the issues surrounding race relations, allowing for greater student involvement.

Last fall, amid criticism that he had increased red tape since he took over as race czar in the summer of 1992, Epps combined two committees into the Faculty Race Relations Advisory Committee to the Harvard Foundation.

The mediation service was developed in response to a diagnostic report on race at Harvard prepared by the Harvard Negotiations Project and two professional consulting groups, Conflict Management Group and Conflict Management Inc.

The service was formed to act as a "safety net" to catch conflicts of race and related issues on a small scale before they erupt into unmanageable situations, Epps said in an interview early last semester.

Mediators were trained over two weekends last spring, said Naomi Andre, mediator and race relations tutor in Winthrop House.