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An Afro-Am Lesson


By Eileen M. Smith

Just like last year, the months of student protests, petitions and pressure have come down to one week of action in April.

A demonstration on Thursday organized by the Committee to Strengthen Afro-American Studies brought about 350 students to the steps of Memorial Church, but the cold weather thinned the crowd before the program ended.

The Coalition for Awareness and Action, a newly-formed group of ten student minority and political organizations, is calling on students to boycott classes Monday.

The Coalition will operate picket lines in front of most classroom buildings, and will hold an afternoon rally calling for divestiture of Harvard's holdings in firms operating in South Africa, and strengthening of the Afro-American studies department.

Student reaction to the planned boycott has been mixed. "I know I support divestiture, but I don't think I know enough about the Afro-Am problem." one student said yesterday, voicing a common sentiment. Another student said she thought a boycott was a good way to show student support for the two demands.

The Faculty has also voiced a range of opinions on Monday's boycott. Although Dean Rosovsky called for "business as usual," Expository Writing teacher Ellen Schrecker cancelled both of her Monday sections. It's very good to take certain symbolic actions," Schrecker said. "I believe Harvard should divest."

Albert B. Lord, Porter professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature, said, "My job is to teach." When asked if he would honor the boycott, John D. Cox, Mellon Fellow in the Humanities, left the decision on whether to hold the class to his students, who voted to meet Monday.

Both yesterday's rally and Monday's boycott call for strengthening of the Afro-American Studies Department. This department was created in the wake of the 1969 student strike, but has faced problems throughout its history.

Although two visiting committees have recommended appointing four additional tenured faculty to the department, there are still only one-and-a-hall tenured professors of Afro-American Studies. Afro-American Studies is the only department to be entirely funded by Dean Rosovsky's office, receiving no money from bequests to the University.

Thursday's rally in support of the department started out small but spirited. About 75 students began the march from the Quad, gathering about 75 more marchers on the way to Memorial Church.

Speakers at the rally included Ewart Guinier '33, professor of Afro-American Studies, Selwyn R. Cudjoe, assistant professor of Afro-American Studies, and Mark Smith '72-4.

Guinier discussed the department's history and the special perspective he feels it offers. "When we teach English history, are we teaching it from an English perspective? Of course not."

Smith drew the greatest audience response as he spoke without notes, quoting from Karl Marx and Malcolm X. He told white students in the audience not to be dissuaded from taking Afro-Am courses simply because they would be a minority in the classroom.

"If blacks responded the same way, we wouldn't be in any economics courses," Smith said.

And if the coalition has its way, no one will be in any courses Monday.

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