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Buell Sympathetic To Ethnic Studies

By Alessandra M. Galloni

The Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) of the Harvard Foundation and members of student minority organizations met yesterday with Dean of Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell to discuss prospects for an ethnic studies program at Harvard.

The discussion focused on the groups' requests for a separate ethnic studies discipline and ways to increase the number of faculty members teaching ethnic studies courses, according to AAC chair Estela Torres '94.

"The main discussion centered around how to have an institutionalized program and how structurally it can come about," Torres said after the meeting.

Proposal for Joint Concentration

Torres said Buell accepted the legitimacy of ethnic studies as a field of study.

"We agreed with Buell that this is a shared value in the administration," Torres said. "We don't want it to be just a debate. If there's an agreement, the main discussion is how to bring it about."

Although the students said they told Buell their main goal is to establish a separate department, they also discussed the possibility of creating a certificate or a joint concentration in ethnic studies.

"The best possible goal is an ethnic studies department," said Eunice Yoon '93, former president of the Asian American Association. "But right now it's not very realistic."

Richard Garcia '95, spokesperson for the Coalition for Diversity, said he was not satisfied with Buell's response to the group's request for a new department.

No Promise of Action

"We didn't think he was very receptive," Garcia said.

Garcia said although establishing a certificate for ethnic studies is a start, the coalition will continue to push for a separate department.

"[Buell] agreed with us that ethnic studies is important," Garcia said. "But he didn't want it to be free standing as a major in itself, only as a sub-field."

Other students present at the meeting said Buell was sympathetic to their requests and promised to present their concerns to the newly formed subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee on Monday.

But some said they were doubtful that the administration would produce fast, concrete results.

"He was very receptive and open," Yoon said. "He'll bring the discussion to the administration but I'm not sure they'll work beyond the traditional means of dealing with ethnic studies at the University."

Temporary Solutions

For the time being, Yoon said, the groups will work to attract prominent scholars to teach ethnic studies in existing departments.

"Hiring is the most important thing," Yoon said. "If you focus on the curriculum, you need professors to develop ethnic studies as a secondary field."

Before the meeting, Buell said he will continue to meet with the AAC periodically in the upcoming semester.

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