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The Purpose Behind the Proposal


This article has been excerpted from the proposal for a Third World Center presented to President Bok last week.

* * *

Harvard University has failed in its stated commitment to diversity and to its Third World students. In the past fifteen years, the Third World student community at Harvard-Radcliffe has grown from one per cent of the student body to 20 per cent, but the University continues to treat us as an insignificant minority without legitimate needs, history, and culture.

All of the traditional departments and institutions at Harvard-Radcliffe were founded in and continue to project a white European image and value system. Today, although many of us find worth in participating in mainstream institutions, we typically discover these institutions to be Eurocentric, insensitive to our cultural backgrounds, irrelevant to our interests, unsympathethic to our needs, and void of an understanding of and interest in our histories-in short, historically and currently alien and alienating.

Harvard-Radcliffe's "commitment" to diversity begins with its Third World recruitment program and ends with the Third World Freshperson Orientation. The University has failed to provide significant and meaningful support socially, financially, or institutionally for its Third World community. As Afro-Americans, Asian Americans, Boricuas, Chicanos, NATIVE Americans, Carribbean peoples, and international students, we have struggled to express our identities, cultures, and histories among ourselves; to share the commonality of our experiences as Third World people; and to enrich the larger community as a whole. We, ourselves, have been forced to take on the entire responsibility for the minimal support services Third World students have here. We have fought to establish and maintain ethic studies programs, Third World admissions and recruitment aprograms, orientation activities for freshpeople and prefreshpeople, and our own organizations.

The breadth and depth of the Third World student organizations clearly demonstrate that the needs and interests of the Third World community are real and substantive. Although Harvard-Radcliffe has proclaimed the importance of "minority" recruitment in the Bakke case and in the national media, the larger Harvard community fails to address the needs and interests of our people. We, Harvard-Radcliffe's Third World students, cannot continue to recruit in good faith while this contradiction persists.

Harvard-Radcliffe must no longer require Third World students to submerge their identities in order to participate in University activities. Paying for the privilege of participating in the mainstream of Harvard life with our identities causes fragmentation within the Third World community and only serves to heighten our alienation from the community at large. The University provides us no place to go where we are no in the minority; thus, we are always seen as curiosities. The Third World Center gives us a forum to express our cultural identities with dignity and legitimacy. Only the insitutionalization of a campus-wide Third World Center can begin to meet in any consistent way the daily needs of the University's Third World community.

The Third World Center provides offices, related facilities, and basic support for Third World students and organizations in formulating and implementing programs, lecturers, seminars, arrtisitic performances, and other educational and cultural activities. The Third World Center recognizes the need to provide peer and career counseling for Third World students, to improve existing non-academic services, such as OCS-OCL, the Freshman Dean's Office, and UHS. Most of all, the Third World Center establishes a non-alien, broad-based context for Third World students to interact as legitimate members of the Harvard community. The Third World Center can have only a beneficial effect on the performance and participation of Third World students at Harvard University.

In the past month, what may have been seen by some as sudden inappropriate expressions of anger on the part of Third World students have in fact been natural outburst of long-submerged frustration. As we see oppressed people in the nations from which we descent shaking off the humiliating yolk of western domination world-wide, we draw strength for our struggles. Our perspective is truly Third World. As our pride grows, so does our anger at the ignorance and insensitivity of the larger community at Harvard. We will not continue to suppress this feeling.

Lastly, given the history of exclusion; the neglect of traditions, values, foods, languages, experiences, and cultures; and the general alienation of Third World students at Harvard-Radcliffe, the University must make the needs of its Third World community, and hence the institutionalization of a Third World Center, a priority consistent with its commitment to diversity.

Proposed Programs

* The Third World Center offers a broad, multifaceted program in academic, social, cultural, and political developmental services.

* The Third World Center implements Harvard-Radlciffe Third World Freshpeoiple Orientations; holds sensitivity and multicultural workshops for proctors, admissions officers, and other student service/support service personnel.

* The Third World Center offers study groups, speaker series, colloquia, and seminars on Asian American, Afro-American, Boricuan, Chicano, Native American, and Third World people's history, culture, and social issues. These enhance the academic environment of Harvard University and Harvard University's commitment ot diversity.

* The Third World Center sponsors visiting artists, musicians, and writers of Third World people to promulgate the rich heritage of oppressed groups.

* The Third World Center offers resources to Third World students in order to channel young people's creative and intellecutal energies into educational activities as well as to address the social alienation and isolation Third World students face.

* The Third World Center is open 24 hours a day with adequate security.

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