New Tutors Handle Race Relations

House tutors are the academic advisors, parents, psychiatrists, and, at times, wardens of Harvard undergraduates. This year some tutors will be asked to assume yet another role, that of race relations advisors.

As part of a program run by Assistant Dean for Race Relations and Minority Affairs Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, each house--for the first time--will have specially trained tutors to deal with issues of race relations and diversity.

The tutors will be the "first in line" for students who report racial incidents, according to Hernandez-Gravelle. "They will not be in charge of discipline or bringing resolution to situations, but they will be part of a team," she says.

The tutors will also deal with subtler questions of racism, says Leverett Master John E. Dowling '57, who proposed the program at a meeting of house masters in May.

"People without knowing it can do racist things," Dowling says. "We're trying to anticipate problems."


To confront subtle racism, the tutors may sponsor discussions and movies in their houses, according to Hernandez-Gravelle. "They will be liaisons to my office and as such will be assigned the role of developing programs in houses to address issues of diversity," she says.

Other race-relations tutors may choose to take a more passive role. "I haven't pictured organized activities," says Archaeology Tutor Dan Finamore, one of two race-relations tutors for Leverett House. "I see it more as a day-to-day activity, something that I am appointed to be aware of. If someone is' on the ball, problems can be diffused before they get too big."

The program is modeled on the system of tutors for gay, lesbian and bisexual issues organized last year by Assistant Dean for Coeducation Janet E. Viggiani.

The tutors will attend a training workshop on race issues held by Hernandez-Gravelle before beginning their house activities. Although not all house masters have recommended tutors for the program, Hernandez-Gravelle says that she hopes all houses will be represented in the workshop.