Epps, Store Owners Plan Seminar on Race

In the wake of student allegations of racial harassment against the owner of a Square newsstand, the College and the Harvard Square Business Association are planning a seminar on race in the commercial setting.

Richard A. Cole '95 last week accused Philip Nini, the owner of Nini's Corner, of racial harassment. After the Undergraduate Council backed a boycott of the newsstand, Nini apologized for his actions.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps said that since an article appeared in last Saturday's Crimson highlighting tensions between minority students and local businesses, several undergraduates have approached him with complaints on the issue.

"I've sort of been running into people in the Yard [since the article appeared]," Epps said. "So far about five people have talked to me about it with similar stories of problems."

The dean said he hopes the meeting, scheduled for early 1995, will promote a discussion on "the dynamics of race in the commercial setting."

"My goal is to promote some kind of dialogue about the problem," Epps said.

Local merchants may not be aware of how diverse Harvard's student body has become, he said.

"I will talk to the Harvard Square Business Association about the changed profile of Harvard students today," Epps said.

Epps said he will discuss some of the problems that various students and faculty members have had with Square businesses.

"I think there is a sense that you're under surveillance--that you must fit a certain profile," Epps said. "It's an issue that Black professionals and other Blacks have long felt needed to be addressed."

Epps referred to a statement made by Thomson Professor of Government Martin L. Kilson Jr., in Saturday's Crimson.

"You could be a member of the faculty with ten Nobel Prizes and when you cross the street, people lock their cars," Kilson said last week.

Tod Beaty, president of the Business Association, said he has not been aware of any racial problems, but agreed that discussing the issue is important.

"I think any time you're talking about discrimination, it needs to be discussed," Beaty said.

Beaty said the Cole incident was an isolated one and was not typical of Square merchants' behavior.

"I haven't really heard about students having trouble with merchants in the Square," Beaty said. "I generally find the business owners in the Square to be very enlightened."

Nini also expressed enthusiasm for the discussion.

"I would attend [the meeting]," Nini said.

The store owner offered advice to his fellow merchants on the need to be careful when dealing with matters of race.

"You have to think before you open up your mouth," Nini said. "Today you can offend anybody with anything."

Other Square business owners agreed with Beaty that race is not an issue in the Square, but added that a seminar of this type would be beneficial in any case.

"We've certainly never harassed anybody," Jim Brine, owner of Brine's, a sporting goods store in the Square. "We try to treat everyone equally.

Frank Kramer, owner of Harvard Bookstore, said he was surprised by the harassment allegations.

"The students are our customers, for us to be rude in any way to them would just be bad for business," Kramer said.

But Kramer also agreed a meeting of this type would be useful.

"If there is a group of people that feels that it would be beneficial, than for that reason alone, this kind of meeting would be justified," Kramer said. "I would love to hear more about the people we serve."Crimson File PhotoDean ARCHIE C. EPPS III