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New Hall Raises Questions About Minority Centers

By D. RICHARD De silva, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel's plan to construct an $8 million new building has reopened the old question of whether minority student centers are harmful to the College's sense of community.

Hillel leaders interviewed last week said that perhaps plans for a Black students center, which were scuttled in the early 1980s, should be revived.

Shai A. Held '94, chair of Hillel's coordinating committee, said the success of Hillel's community center may suggest that similar centers for other minority student groups are a good idea.

"The fact of their having no space is something that should be addressed," he said.

In response to questions about whether other minority groups who lack buildings may resent Hillel's new Rosovsky Hall, a member of Hillel's coordinating council went a step further.

"I think there's understandable resentment," said the coordinating council member, who requested anonymity. "But the University has to deal with that resentment and the cause of that resentment to empower some of the other minority groups to be in the same situation," said.

Black Students Association spokesperson Jennifer E. Fisher '93 said last night that a Black students center is still a "long-term" goal, but that "something like that would take a lot of funding."

Referring to Rosovsky Hall, Acting Hillel Director Rabbi Sally Finestone said, "I hope that similar projects would be possible for other minority student groups 10 to 15 years down the road."

"In the meantime, the University should be more helpful," she said.

Held also encouraged the University to back minority groups that lack the fundraising powers of Hillel.

"It's important that people recognize that for a myriad of reasons, not all campus organizations have the fundraising potential that Hillel does," he said. "The University need to address that by donating funds on their own or helping them to establish alumni networks."

Hillel's fund drive, which drew large contributions from parents of current students and recent graduates, has been unprecedented in its size and success. The campaign reached $7 million earlier this semester.

The planned building is named in honor of Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky, formerly dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Hillel's growing importance as a social and cultural center has led to the perception by some of isolationism from the rest of Harvard's diverse communities.

"Yes, I think it's true" that some Hillel students isolate themselves, says Laurence J. Kanner '94, a Jewish student who is not active in Hillel.

Finestone estimates that roughly one-third of Hillel participants--including a number of Orthodox Jews--use the center as "an alternative to Harvard life."

But Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said last week that in his view, Hillel does not harm the overall College community.

"I don't think it's a segregating force," said Epps. "Hillel puts on public programs to the community. It is therefore not a place whose purpose is to separate people from the larger community."

In 1982, a committee chaired by the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Plummer professor of Christian morals, recommended against the creation of a Third World students center. The committee stated that such a center would fracture the campus and undermine the College's House system.

Subsequent proposals for a Black students center were also sunk by the Gomes report.

Epps said the Gomes report did not apply to Hillel since it is primarily a religious organization rather than an ethnic organization.

"Hillel is more similar to the Catholic students' center than a Third World center," said Epps. "Therefore, I do not have the same concerns about the activities of Hillel that I would otherwise."

Hillel is funded entirely by private donors and has no financial ties to Harvard.

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