Race Relations Report Issued, Cites Misperceptions, Doubts

The College committee on race relations yesterday released its report, which indicates that despite substantial interracial contact among Harvard undergraduates, students encounter prejudice in their relations with other students and about one of every five students doubts the academic abilities of minority students.

The report, the first in-depth examination of race relations in a college environment, also indicates that Black and white undergraduates at Harvard are decisively split on their attitudes toward the University's commitment to minority admissions, affirmative action and a diverse curriculum.

Issued after almost two-and-a-half years of work by a students-Faculty committee chaired by Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, the report recommends several changes, including:

* the inclusion in the Core Curriculum of courses on race relations and minority groups;

* a new administrative procedure to respond to students who feel they have been racially discriminated against, and;


* a reaffirmation by the University of its commitment to affirmative action and to hiring more minority proctors and tutors.

Based on evidence drawn primarily from a series of open meetings and a survey of one-quarter of the undergraduates, the report concludes that race problems at Harvard "are not caused by a single, deviant group of racist students," but by distorted perceptions on the part of many undergraduates.

Despite student perception of separatism among minority groups and white students, the committee found that "whatever racial problems exist at Harvard are not caused by the simple unwillingness of minority students to interact with whites or to participate in the mainstream of college life."

Among the report's other findings are:

* that there is little relationship between racial attitudes and behavior among Harvard students:

* that most students questioned grossly overestimate the proportion of minority students at the College;

* that when Harvard affects a student's racial views, it usually does so positively, and;

* that most white students see Harvard's affirmative action and curriculum programs as sufficiently diverse, while many minority students see Harvard as a university with a limited commitment to seeking minority Faculty members and to teaching non-Western European traditions.

The committee did not find repeated instances of overtly racist behavior but concluded that discrimination at Harvard is a subtle and complex problem. "Racism reflects a pattern of behavior or conduct," Epps said this week. "We did not find that here. We don't think the data support it. But because of the undercurrent of tension, the environment is loaded with misperceptions."

The report draws most of its conclusions from an exhaustive 251-question survey on racial attitudes and experiences which about 22 per cent of undergraduates answered. The sample of 1300 students, which corresponds closely to a statistical breakdown of students by race, sex and class, "constitutes an accurate sample of the total undergraduate population," the report states. "Statistically, it is very sound," Epps said.