Epps Takes On Race Relations With New Vision

Veteran Dean Tackles Thorny Issue After an Turbulent, Eye-Opening Spring

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III leans back in his arm chair, tweaks his trademark bow tie, and sighs.

"The fit is not always there," says Epps, speaking of his tumultuous relations with Harvard undergraduates in his 20 years as dean.

Often referred to as Harvard's closest equivalent to a high school principal, Epps more than any other administrator has been the object of student ridicule in recent years--for his top hat, his impeccable elocution and his gentlemanly manners.

Epps has had his share of serious controversy, as well. When students took over University Hall in 1969, he was branded as a defender of the Establishment.

Epps is mindfully reminded of his past unpopularity this semester, as he assumes responsibility for healing racial tensions which flared on campus last spring.


The culmination of the tensions was by a flyer distributed by the Black Students Association. The flyer, entitled "On the Harvard Plantation," listed grievances of Black students against a number of Harvard institutions, including the College, the University police and The Crimson.

Epps, who was not fully aware of the stress coming to bear on Harvard's multicultural community, realized then that he was out of touch with an area of student life that he closely supervised only ten years ago.

"I was going along last year think- ing we were so much better off than otherinstitutions," Epps says. "That turs out not to bethe case. The 'Plantation' flyer was a realeye-opener."

"I thinks it's very easy to sit in theseoffices and be completely out of touch," he says.

Now, Epps is eager to enter the fray. Butalthough his instinct for bringing races togetheris still sharp, the administration of racerelations is not what it used to be.

Epps' job is complicated by the presence of tworace relations celebrities--S. Allen Counter andAssistant Dean Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, who,respectively, preside over the Harvard Foundationand the Office of Race Relations and MinorityAffairs.

Massaging egos and nimbly avoiding turfconflicts between Counter and Hernandez-Gravellewill rank high on Epps "to-do" list. The three toprace officials will meet weekly to coordinatetheir efforts, he says.

Epps hopes for unselfish devotion to largergoals in an area where personalities often becomelarger than life. "None of us are individuals," hesays. "Reputations are really not what matters."

Epps, however, says his proconsulary status mayjust be temporary.

He plans to oversee the two race offices thisyear, but ultimately hopes the new student-facultycommittee on race relations will produce apro-active plan for the future, "an institutionaldesign for the 90s."

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