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PROSPECTS for racial progress at Harvard brightened measurably last week. With the formation of the new Negotiating Committee on Negro Educational Policy came the first signs of the biracial cooperation that will be necessary to solve Harvard's long-ignored racial problems.
The four proposals Afro presented to the University two weeks ago reflected the grief and anger that filled Negro Americans after Martin Luther King's death. While the proposals scored many glaring faults in Harvard's policy towards blacks, they were marked with an uncomfortably separatist tone.
Last week this approach changed. The Negotiating Committee's decision to hold black-white meetings in the Houses was a bold experiment. If it had failed, it would have only confirmed blacks' suspicion that Harvard whites didn't care and weren't going to help.
The meetings succeeded. To the many whites who had dreamily imagined that Harvard was a haven of toleration and equality, the meetings brought the first realization that black students had a problem. And to the blacks, the meetings proved that whites were hungry for cooperation and unity.
The revised proposals the Negotiating Committee submitted last week reflected a new optimism about cooperation. Black leaders still stood by their legitimate complaints about the lack of courses relevant to blacks. Harvard must improve its grossly inadequate coverage of African studies. There is also a clear need for more black Faculty members, and the committee has left that demand unchanged.
The Committee also changed the objectionable aspects of the first requests. Instead of demanding blind racial quotas for admission, blacks asked the University to admit more qualified Negroes--a responsibility Harvard must not avoid.
The new Committee is seeking cooperation, not confrontation. The University must now exhibit a similar maturity and meet the requests.
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