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Race Report Meets the Real World

By Stephanie D. James

It took the College committee on race relations almost two-and-a-half years to compile its 138-page report, the first in-depth examination of interracial contact in a college environment. The student-Faculty committee, chaired by Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, issued forth pages of recommendations, all aimed at making the College, in the committee's words, "more forthright in expressing its support for the minority presence at Harvard and the necessity of good race relations on campus."

Now that the report is out and the College is in a position to act on the recommendations, administrators and students are raising questions about, respectively, the newness and merit of these proposals. Administrators who will play key roles in bringing about the changes recommended in the report--such as increasing the number of minority faculty members, tutors and proctors, promoting minority admisions and introducing Core courses on ethnic groups--say these recommendations offer nothing new; they are simply a reaffirmation of goals the College has pursued for several years.

That the Faculty needs to increase its minority representation is not news, say administrators. In the most recent effort to add minority to the faculty ranks, Dean Rosovsky last summer set up a committee to determine the numbers and percentages of minority faculty at other universities. Dean K. Whitla, director of the office of instructional research and evaluation, who chairs the committee, says so far the group has discovered that the problem of locating minority faculty is universal. But Whitla credits the Black Students Association, not the race relations committee or report, for putting on the pressure that led to the formation of this investigative committee.

In the Admissions Office, minority recruitment has gone on for several years, admissions officers say and they dispute the report's statement that minority admits turn down Harvard at a greater rate than do majority students. Constance L. Rice '78, minority admissions officer, says, "The overall minority yield is higher than that of white students," and adds that each group fluctuates from year to year. Epps' committee, she adds, may have gathered its information from records that were not up to date.

As for proctors, Henry C. Moses, dean of freshmen, says last year's recruiting efforts produced 13 new minority proctors. "That's a very impressive number. We have a total of 14 minorities among 66 or 67 proctors." Last year they had three. Moses asserts that this is no shift from their original policy: "We've always been interested in a solid number of minority proctors. I realized the inadequate number without the race relation committee's study. That's why last year's minority proctor recruiting was more vigorous."

Thomas A. Dingman '67, assistant dean of the college for Houses, gave a similar report on House tutors. Though he was "clearly mindful that increasing the number of minority House tutors was a report recommendation," he says he has already discussed the issue in a House Master's meeting. Tutor appointments are made by the Houses. "The dean's office tries to point out this interest to the Houses and gives them a nudge if need be," Dingman adds.

While administrators are maintaining that the report proposes nothing that will significantly change their direction in the next few years, representatives of minority student organizations are questioning whether the committee was heading in the correct direction in the first place.

While the students say the report's suggestions are encouraging because they indicate the College is willing to look for answers, they add that it failed to ask the right questions. The committee should have analyzed the institutional structures that perpetuate patterns of racism within the University, rather than the symptomatic student attitudes and perceptions. Jane Bock '81, president of the Asian American Association, says, "Through it is important that there be changes in the curriculum, tenuring process, tutor and proctor representation, there are institutional structural changes the report did not address."

"You just don't go out and take a survey of student attitudes," George Sanchez '81, member of Raza, says, adding, "The committee should have analyzed the situation in objective terms. It should have studied not only the fact that there are few minority students and faculty members, few courses with Third World concerns, but why there are so few."

Not only should the committee have looked at these structures, it should have come up with other structures that support minority students in a positive way, Bock says. She points to the proposed Third World Center, which minority students have requested since 1969, as one example.

Epps agrees that the committee did not study these structures, but instead placed its emphasis on student attitudes and interactions. "It was not a study on the institutions that impinge upon minorities," he says, but defends this emphasis, saying, "This is simply a difference of opinion and approach to the same problem." For the last ten years, Epps observes, the College's approach had been consistently directed toward "how to increase the numbers of minorities in institutions and whether the institutions are representative of minority concerns." Both approaches, Epps adds, are necessary, and he believes "there is room for both."

The students also object to the report's stress on student responsibility for improving racial relations. In particular, the last of 11 recommendations notes that "racial interactions at Harvard could best be improved by a 'concentrated effort by students.'" It adds that the committee hopes all races and ethnic groups will try "to get to know each other and to improve the College's racial atmosphere."

Minority students say that this responsibility is more the College's than theirs. Students are not in a position, they say, where they can even hope to alter long-held racial attitues and create an environment in which members of the Harvard community can develop a mutual respect.

Nevertheless, Epps contends that the project's success depends heavily on the growth and change of student attitudes. "It's no good my sitting here telling people what to do," Epps says. "I'm trying not to rely solely on appeals. Students are going to have to use both the letter and spirit to overcome the problem."

In the meantime, Epps says this year he will start working on the recommendations that the administration has not yet tackled. One of these is devising a systematic method in which students can report incidents of violent or non-violent racial incidents to University authorities. In addition, Epps will make sure students are acquainted with the new Massachusetts civil rights law that will provide protection against racial violence.

Epps will also set up a new smaller committee that will lobby for his recommendations. For instance, this committee would urge the Faculty to create Core Curriculum courses on race relations and ethnic issues. Again, students must work for these changes, Edward T. Wilcox, spokesman for the Core observes. "The best way to bring a course related to Third World groups or issues into being is for a group of students to get together and approach a professor."

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