Minorities Discuss Counseling

Undergraduates Hesitant About Using College Services

Minority students often feel particularly hesitant about taking advantage of College counseling services, several undergraduates said last night at a forum on "How Students of Color Navigate the Harvard Experience."

Both students and counselors participated in the forum, which drew approximately 30 people to Boylston Hall.

Students on the panel expressed their discontent with the accessibility, hospitality and sensitivity of the College's undergraduate counseling services.

"The administration should make students feel more accepted and welcome, instead of [as just representatives] of their race," said Bennett M. Ruiz '93. And, he added, counselors within the house system should represent a diversity of racial backgrounds.

Kendal H. Black '92 said he would like advisors to be more proactive instead of merely reacting to student questions. "You have to swallow your pride," to ask for help, Black said.


Students of color feel that if they go to a counseling office, "the Peninsula's going to kick [them] out," Dayle B. Delancey '92 said of the ultra-conservative campus magazine.

College officials on the panel expressed sympathy for the students' concerns and said undergraduates should be encouraged to take advantage of counseling services.

'We Don't Need Heroes'

"We don't need heroes or heroines," said Assistant Dean for Minority Affairs and Race Relations Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, who helped organize the forum. "We all need help and it's a strength, not a weakness, to go to the Bureau of Study Counsel."

Charles P. Ducey, director of the Bureau of Study Counsel, who attended the forum, said afterward that he understands there is pressure, especially among Black students, to remain "independent." He said that sentiment can make it difficult for many students to seek counseling services.

'Non-threatening' Publicity

One possible solution to this problem, Ducey said, is to make the services "more publicized in a non-threatening way."

The panel was composed of undergraduates and representatives from the University Health Services, the Bureau of Study Counsel and the Office of Career Services.

Virginia L. Mackay Smith '78, dean for first-year students, who attended the forum, said afterwards that she was glad to see students talk frankly about their objections to the counseling services.

Ducey and Martha P. Leape, director of the Office of Career Services, both said that they would discuss with their staffs the suggestions raised by the students.

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