Minority Student Alliance Meeting Draws Only a Handful

Group will scale back panned events this semester

Carla A. Blackmar '00 attended the year's first Minority Student Alliance (MSA) meeting last night.

She was practically the only one.

In what MSA Chair Ethel B. Branch '00 could only characterize as "very discouraging," the meeting was intended to bring together representatives from the campus's ethnic, racial and cultural organizations to discuss the MSA's agenda for the year--but only brought together Branch, three other MSA officers and Blackmar.

"I suppose MSA will not take off until second semester," Branch said. "I tried to come into this year with great expectations, but Brunch and tonight, I just don't know."

Twice-monthly events--titled "Breaking Cultural Barriers" and "Cultural Revelations"--were to be the cornerstones of the new agenda; one organization would share their cultural traditions, such as a national dish or regional folk dance, with another in an attempt to "gain a greater respect for each other," Branch said.

Given the near no-show at last night's meeting, Branch cancelled this month's activities and is now considering limiting these events to once a semester. She also said she may cancel the MSA's participation in this year's National Day of Action.

Branch and three other MSA officers at the meeting mentioned plans to hold a party and a week-long multicultural celebration, as well as a panel discussion about randomization on the same scale as last year's MSA-sponsored affirmative action panel in Sanders Theatre.

Blackmar, a representative from the Irish Cultural society, said the MSA may have planned too ambitious an agenda.

"I hope they make the commitment more reasonable," Blackmar said, noting that meetings every two weeks are too demanding for organizations that are already planning their own events.

"As tonight's meeting showed, there is a lack of coordination between the activities on the campus," Blackmar said. "The idea of a dialogue is a very important one.Perhaps once a month, with high attendance."

Black Students Association (BSA) Vice PresidentJason B. Phillips '99, who serves as hisorganization's MSA representative, said he was notaware of the meeting.

The same goes for South Asian Association (SAA)President Uttan Tambar '00, who attended the MSA'sPresidents' Brunch last month.

"Someone from our association would have gone,if they had known," he said, noting that the SAAwill participate in "Breaking Cultural Barriers"when it occurs.

"I'm happy they're doing that. We definitelyneed that on this campus," Tambar said. "More thanhaving dances, we also need meaningful eventswhere we cannot be afraid to discuss ourdifferences."

Phillips agreed.

"The MSA is important. Students of variousethnic persuasions and different backgrounds needto be in constant contact," Phillips said."[MSA's] Race@Harvard was the best event on racelast year. That had everyone talking for an entireyear."

Although she said she knows several campusorganizations already have MSA representatives,Branch said she and her fellow officers willpersonally contact each group to encourage theirattendance.

Jobe G. Danganan '99, who served as MSA chairlast year, said Branch should not be worried bylast night's turn-out.

"I must have sent out 200 e-mails lastSeptember alone," said Danganan, whose term alsobegan slowly. "We just had to persevere.