Epps Pushes for Reform

Suffers From Bureaucratic Inertia, Infighting

After Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III took on his proconsulary role in charge of the College's race relations policies last summer, many students saw the opportunity to rally behind the administration's new efforts to heal the tensions of the previous spring.

Now, almost year later, the Race Czar has faced a fiery trial which has included a coalition of minority student groups who dubbed Harvard "the Peculiar Institution," a Boston Globe profile which called him "the water carrier" of the administration, and bureaucratic infighting in his own backyard.

Epps tends to dismiss his his most venomous critics, most of whom are limited by their four-year attention spans, who he says expect too much too fast.

"People tend to think of these things like a television show that begins and ends in an hour," he said. "That is not the nature of race relations."

A veteran of the College administration for over 25 years, Epps is the quintessential Harvard bureaucrat. Some observers say his tidy, orderly world view doesn't always find a proper purchase on the anarchic problem of race relations. Instead, Epps stresses the need for long-standing administrative mechanisms, usually involving some sort of committee structure, to handle race issues as they arise.

Epps' brand of race relations is a democratic process which values a wide range of opinions but sometimes tows the line of bureaucratic inefficiency.

"I think it's mostly been a lot of bureaucratic shuffle," Raza President Richard Garcia '95 said earlier this year.

Even Professor of Afro-American Studies K. Anthony Appiah, who heads one of the new committees, has voiced some concern about the burgeoning bureaucracy.

"The more people giving thoughtful attention to such a subject, the better," he says. "I happen to think there are too many committees generally at Harvard. There may be better things for us to be doing but I don't think that's a problem in itself."

But despite the criticism, Epps continues to operate like King Arthur at the Round Table, incorporating as many opinions and viewpoints into the race dialogue as possible.

"I think it is fair to measure our success by asking how many race-related events there have been, how many student complaints, if there were informed responses to the complaints, and how large a group participated in the evaluations," Epps says.

"There is now a broader participation in the discussions on race relations," he says, citing the involvement of more than 100 people of different ethnicities and backgrounds in the discourse about race relations he had tried to foster this year.

But Epps' expansive management style has sometimes led him to tread on the tender egos of his colleagues-turned-subordinates in the morass of race relations committees, officials and organizations at the College.

One of his primary tasks as Race Czar has been mediating a turf war among the College's three overlapping race structures: his own race relations committee, S. Allen Counter's Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and Assistant Dean Hilda Hernandez Gravelle's Office of Race Relations and Minority Affairs.

Counter allegedly encouraged the co-chairs of the Asian American Association (AAA) to write a letter to The Crimson criticizing Epps in his role as Race Czar, according to the authors of the letter. "Anyone working at race relations is expected to follow professional codes of conduct which includes direct discus- sion with one's collegues," Epps says. "It should not include working through students to send a message."