It's been a rocky year for race relations.

In February, eight campus groups greeted controversial speaker Leonard Jeffries with an indignant protest.

In March, anti-Asian slurs appeared on the poetry board of Lamont Library, and Asian students received a series of harassing phone calls.

In April, Harvard foundation Director S. Allen Counter clashed with The Crimson over the newspaper's coverage of minorities. His letter provoked accusations of insensitivity from Jewish students and a call for his resignation.

In May, the editors of a conservative magazine plastered the campus with posters referring to African Americans as "spades" and "Negroes," The Black Students Association (BSA) shot back with a flyer describing Harvard as a "plantation" and charging the Harvard police with harassing minority students.


Just days later, Harvard's race troubles were eerily echoed across the country. The Rodney King verdict fell, the riots erupted, and suddenly race issues were also in the national spotlight.

"I think it was a tense year, and that seemed to parallel a tense year for the rest of the nation," says BSA President Zaheer R. Ali '94.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III says, "I think that we've had our share of problems, including racism directed toward minorities and charges of anti-Semitism."

The problems first surfaced with the BSA's decision to invite Jeffries to speak on campus. The City University of New York professor has been accused of making anti-Italian, anti-Semitic and anti-gay comments in the past.

Former BSA President Art A. Hall '92 says the group invited Jeffries as part of a year-long celebration of black culture.

BSA expected some criticism, he says, but it was "interested in exploring different viewpoints that exist within the [Black] community."

Hillel Coordinating Council Chair Shai A. Held '94 organized an eight-group coalition that included the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students association, the Asian American Association, the Radcliffe Union of Students, Raza, the South Asian Association and Actively Working against Racism and Ethnocentrism.

About 450 participated in the peaceful and subdued protest outside Sanders Theatre, where Jeffries addressed an audience of several hundred. Although BSA leaders emphasized the right of others to protest the event, the speech left some tension in its wake.

Held said the protest left "a wound but not a break" in BSA-Hillel relations. Other minority leaders said they saw some estrangement, but held out hope for reconciliation.

But a true reconciliation was delayed by a fight over a letter co-written by Dr. S. Allen Counter, director of the Harvard Foundation. Counter criticized The Crimson's coverage of minority issues, but some say he went too far and implied a link between Hillel and The Crimson.

Recommended Articles