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Veteran Dean Tapped to Heal Racial Tensions

Epps Surprised by Tumultuous Spring

By D. RICHARD De silva, Crimson Staff Writer

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 turns out not tobe the 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."

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 insiststhat this would include both the Foundation andthe Office of Race Relations, despite persistentrumors last year that Dean of the Faculty JeremyR. Knowles would consolidate the two offices.

Regardless, when Epps' job is done, he willcontinue on his way as the College's Mr. Fixit.

"A dean of students is always going aroundtrying to see what is tattered in the fabric ofthe institution and he or she should be there,"says Epps. "And perhaps when it gets fixed, go onto something else."

Clearly, Epps fancies himself a man of action.He may project a veneer of conservatism and oldHarvard stuffiness but as a registered Democratand a veteran of the civil rights movement, hemasks an activist past.

In 1963, he led the New England contingent tothe Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march onWashington.

And his long-standing interest in Malcolm Xbegan in 1964, when the influential Black leaderspoke at Leverett House. Epps is now a leadingauthority on Malcolm X, having published ananthology of Malcolm X's speeches at Harvard.

Epps says his fascination with Malcolm X wasrooted in dissatisfaction with King's teachings,then the gospel of the civil rights movement.Indeed, King was then criticized for being overlyidealistic and conciliatory towards whitebenefactors and politicians.

Ironically, some students have criticized Eppsfor his idealism and links to the white Harvardestablishment.

But it is his scholarship on Malcolm X and thepolitics of race--in addition to his experience asdean of students--that Epps believes qualifies himto be "race czar."

"Because of the Malcolm X book and earlierworks, it is probably thought that I have somecompetence and understanding," says Epps, whoconcedes that his race was likely considered inthe decision as well. "I also have some strengthsin mediation and negotiation badly needed in thissituation."

He discounts the notion that, as a minority, heis uniquely qualified to handle race relations.

"It's not always the case that minorities arethe most sensitive to race relations," says Epps."Sometimes they're part of the problem. Myqualification is scholarship and experience, notrace."

Epps says associates warned him in 1980 not toget mired in a controversy over race relations. Heacknowledges the precariousness of his position,as a Black man trying to represent anoverwhelmingly white administration and strugglingto stitch together an increasingly diverse campus.

"It involves risk-taking," he says. "I wouldnot have led the committee in 1980 if I hadlistened to my peers. All of them said, 'Don't doit. It'll blow up in your face. It'll hurt yourcareer.'"

The nuts and bolts of Epps' new plan remainunclear. He says he will try to elevate the statusof the existing race offices, intervene personallyto help develop a discourse on race and helpstudents of different backgrounds get to know eachother informally.

The first major event Epps plans is a racerelations retreat today for student leaders, racerelations tutors and proctors, and College staff.

The retreat will include a picnic and cookout,as well as role-playing workshops on racerelations.

In the past, critics have pointed to overlapbetween the two race relations structures, butEpps insists they complement each other.

Epps wants to see the two offices develop moreas "consultative bodies to houses." Counteralready conducts about five workshops in thehouses each year, Epps says.

"Each of those offices has a specialcompetence," he says.

Epps praises Hernandez-Gravelle as "a clinicianskilled in racial dynamics and preventionprogramming." He also espouses her philosophy oflow-level prevention of racial conflict, pointingto her concept of race relations tutors and thesix newly-designated race relations proctors.

Epps praises Counter as an "excellentprogrammer" who pioneered learning from successfulracial models from a range of neglected cultures.

"People of color do not have portraits on thewalls at Harvard," says Epps. "There's a riskthere that the students will not feel that thisplace is theirs. They have no sense of ownership."

Epps also praises Counter, who last spring wasembroiled in a controversy with The Crimson witheach side charging the other of racialinsensitivity.

Despite Epps' rhetoric, though, can studentsexpect real initiative or just another round ofhand-waving until the furor subsides? This fall,Harvard will embark on its second attempt in 15years to develop a coherent approach to improvingcampus race relations.

Epps stresses that any analysis of racerelations relies on careful surveys andstatistics--the same methods his 1980 racecommittee used--rather than anecdotal evidencewhich confused much of last year's debates.

The Epps committee reported startlingconclusions which shattered contemporarymisconceptions about self-segregation and racismby whites.

It concluded that the College's race problemscould be traced to undergraduates' distortedperceptions.

"Racism reflects a pattern of behavior orconduct," Epps told The Crimson in 1980. "We didnot find that here. But because of theundercurrent of tension, the environment is loadedwith misperceptions."

The primary source of racism cited in 1980 wasBoston, with student interaction and campuspublications respectively third and fourth.

Student interaction and publications, on theother hand, were at the forefront of last year'scontroversies, according to Epps.

In the 1980 surveys, Black and white studentsdiffered most significantly over specialconsideration for minorities admitted to Harvard.

The Epps committee issued 13 recommendationsincluding the establishment of a procedure forracial grievances, more minority tutors, and theaffirmation of racial integration. The committeealso encouraged the University to support minoritypresence on campus in a number of ways.

But some would argue that the 1980 effortyielded much talk and few concrete results. Eppsdoes have a tendency to idealize: his eyessparkle, his voice drifts into Olivier-esquecadences, and he talks of curing societal ills inbrush strokes surprisingly broad for a veterandetails man.

In addition to race relations issues, Epps hashad other ambitious plans fall by theway-side-including most recently a publicationcenter vigorously championed by the dean

But now, Epps, who has always defied hiscritics, is back on the rise. And he knows it.

Last year, a number of student leadersexpressed satisfaction with his concerned responseto problems of race relations.

Asked about his resurgent popularity, Eppschortles, then sheepishly grins. Not given tohyperbole, he concedes his image is clearly "onthe plus side."

He will need this reputation. His job--finetuning the experiment in diversity which isHarvard's pride and joy--will not be an easy one.ABOVE: DEAN EPPS TALKS WITH A STUDENTPROTESTING HARVARD'S INVESTMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICAIN 1978. RIGHT: EPPS EXAMINES THE DEMANDS OFSTUDENTS STAGING A 1990 UNIVERSITY HALL SIT-INABOUT THE LACK OF FACULTY IN THE AFRO-AMDEPARTMENT.GLIMPSES FROM DEAN EPPS' LONG CAREER ATHARVARD COLLEGE. LEFT: EPPS STEPPING OUT OFUNIVERSITY HALL. RIGHT: EPPS AND HIS TWOCHILDREN.

"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."

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 insiststhat this would include both the Foundation andthe Office of Race Relations, despite persistentrumors last year that Dean of the Faculty JeremyR. Knowles would consolidate the two offices.

Regardless, when Epps' job is done, he willcontinue on his way as the College's Mr. Fixit.

"A dean of students is always going aroundtrying to see what is tattered in the fabric ofthe institution and he or she should be there,"says Epps. "And perhaps when it gets fixed, go onto something else."

Clearly, Epps fancies himself a man of action.He may project a veneer of conservatism and oldHarvard stuffiness but as a registered Democratand a veteran of the civil rights movement, hemasks an activist past.

In 1963, he led the New England contingent tothe Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march onWashington.

And his long-standing interest in Malcolm Xbegan in 1964, when the influential Black leaderspoke at Leverett House. Epps is now a leadingauthority on Malcolm X, having published ananthology of Malcolm X's speeches at Harvard.

Epps says his fascination with Malcolm X wasrooted in dissatisfaction with King's teachings,then the gospel of the civil rights movement.Indeed, King was then criticized for being overlyidealistic and conciliatory towards whitebenefactors and politicians.

Ironically, some students have criticized Eppsfor his idealism and links to the white Harvardestablishment.

But it is his scholarship on Malcolm X and thepolitics of race--in addition to his experience asdean of students--that Epps believes qualifies himto be "race czar."

"Because of the Malcolm X book and earlierworks, it is probably thought that I have somecompetence and understanding," says Epps, whoconcedes that his race was likely considered inthe decision as well. "I also have some strengthsin mediation and negotiation badly needed in thissituation."

He discounts the notion that, as a minority, heis uniquely qualified to handle race relations.

"It's not always the case that minorities arethe most sensitive to race relations," says Epps."Sometimes they're part of the problem. Myqualification is scholarship and experience, notrace."

Epps says associates warned him in 1980 not toget mired in a controversy over race relations. Heacknowledges the precariousness of his position,as a Black man trying to represent anoverwhelmingly white administration and strugglingto stitch together an increasingly diverse campus.

"It involves risk-taking," he says. "I wouldnot have led the committee in 1980 if I hadlistened to my peers. All of them said, 'Don't doit. It'll blow up in your face. It'll hurt yourcareer.'"

The nuts and bolts of Epps' new plan remainunclear. He says he will try to elevate the statusof the existing race offices, intervene personallyto help develop a discourse on race and helpstudents of different backgrounds get to know eachother informally.

The first major event Epps plans is a racerelations retreat today for student leaders, racerelations tutors and proctors, and College staff.

The retreat will include a picnic and cookout,as well as role-playing workshops on racerelations.

In the past, critics have pointed to overlapbetween the two race relations structures, butEpps insists they complement each other.

Epps wants to see the two offices develop moreas "consultative bodies to houses." Counteralready conducts about five workshops in thehouses each year, Epps says.

"Each of those offices has a specialcompetence," he says.

Epps praises Hernandez-Gravelle as "a clinicianskilled in racial dynamics and preventionprogramming." He also espouses her philosophy oflow-level prevention of racial conflict, pointingto her concept of race relations tutors and thesix newly-designated race relations proctors.

Epps praises Counter as an "excellentprogrammer" who pioneered learning from successfulracial models from a range of neglected cultures.

"People of color do not have portraits on thewalls at Harvard," says Epps. "There's a riskthere that the students will not feel that thisplace is theirs. They have no sense of ownership."

Epps also praises Counter, who last spring wasembroiled in a controversy with The Crimson witheach side charging the other of racialinsensitivity.

Despite Epps' rhetoric, though, can studentsexpect real initiative or just another round ofhand-waving until the furor subsides? This fall,Harvard will embark on its second attempt in 15years to develop a coherent approach to improvingcampus race relations.

Epps stresses that any analysis of racerelations relies on careful surveys andstatistics--the same methods his 1980 racecommittee used--rather than anecdotal evidencewhich confused much of last year's debates.

The Epps committee reported startlingconclusions which shattered contemporarymisconceptions about self-segregation and racismby whites.

It concluded that the College's race problemscould be traced to undergraduates' distortedperceptions.

"Racism reflects a pattern of behavior orconduct," Epps told The Crimson in 1980. "We didnot find that here. But because of theundercurrent of tension, the environment is loadedwith misperceptions."

The primary source of racism cited in 1980 wasBoston, with student interaction and campuspublications respectively third and fourth.

Student interaction and publications, on theother hand, were at the forefront of last year'scontroversies, according to Epps.

In the 1980 surveys, Black and white studentsdiffered most significantly over specialconsideration for minorities admitted to Harvard.

The Epps committee issued 13 recommendationsincluding the establishment of a procedure forracial grievances, more minority tutors, and theaffirmation of racial integration. The committeealso encouraged the University to support minoritypresence on campus in a number of ways.

But some would argue that the 1980 effortyielded much talk and few concrete results. Eppsdoes have a tendency to idealize: his eyessparkle, his voice drifts into Olivier-esquecadences, and he talks of curing societal ills inbrush strokes surprisingly broad for a veterandetails man.

In addition to race relations issues, Epps hashad other ambitious plans fall by theway-side-including most recently a publicationcenter vigorously championed by the dean

But now, Epps, who has always defied hiscritics, is back on the rise. And he knows it.

Last year, a number of student leadersexpressed satisfaction with his concerned responseto problems of race relations.

Asked about his resurgent popularity, Eppschortles, then sheepishly grins. Not given tohyperbole, he concedes his image is clearly "onthe plus side."

He will need this reputation. His job--finetuning the experiment in diversity which isHarvard's pride and joy--will not be an easy one.ABOVE: DEAN EPPS TALKS WITH A STUDENTPROTESTING HARVARD'S INVESTMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICAIN 1978. RIGHT: EPPS EXAMINES THE DEMANDS OFSTUDENTS STAGING A 1990 UNIVERSITY HALL SIT-INABOUT THE LACK OF FACULTY IN THE AFRO-AMDEPARTMENT.GLIMPSES FROM DEAN EPPS' LONG CAREER ATHARVARD COLLEGE. LEFT: EPPS STEPPING OUT OFUNIVERSITY HALL. RIGHT: EPPS AND HIS TWOCHILDREN.

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