On June 1, 1993, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations was contacted by a representative from The Crimson who indicated that the editors "will print another article about the recent letter of complaint against Archie Epps, Dean of Students, from the leaders of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association," and unsubstantiated "allegations" that this office was "behind the harsh criticism Epps recently received" in the letter. The Crimson's representative asked for a response from this office. In reply to that request, and to set the record straight, this letter is submitted.
The Harvard Foundation conducts a yearlong series of programs with the aim of improving racial understanding and encouraging positive relationships among students of different races and ethnicities on our campus. As with other University offices, we do the best we can in this sometimes difficult but very important undertaking. By most accounts, we at the Harvard Foundation have had a successful year in race relations. In this office of three staff members and ten part-time students, we remain dedicated to the task of creating an atmosphere of interracial camaraderie and one in which Harvard's ethnic diversity is appreciated by students of all races.
However, our efforts to improve race relations at Harvard are severely hurt by Crimson articles such as those that ran on May 21 and May 28 regarding the letter of complaint against Epps sent to University administrative officials by the leaders of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association. Unfortunately, these Crimson articles fabricate controversy and contain many distortions and improper allegations that are demeaning to both this office and the leaders of the H-R Asian American Association (AAA).
First, the authors of the letter of complaint against Epps are duly elected co-presidents of the AAA and represent the leadership of more than 150 students who are members of their organization. I and the members of this office have a great deal of respect for the elected leadership of the AAA and their fellow members. When they, as well as the leaders of other minority student organizations, bring their race relations complaints to this office, we take them seriously and give them proper professional consideration based on our 12 years of experience in race relations work. We are always concerned when any member of our community is perceived as the victim or the cause of racial insensitivity.
Contrary to the hurtful allegations of the Crimson editors, the letter listing grievances against Epps from leaders of the AAA was delivered to this office at the same time it was presented to other University officials, and was never seen or discussed by anyone in this office prior to its release. The Crimson writers indicate that the leadership of the AAA has brought grievances regarding Epps to this office, but fail to mention that in each instance (past and present) their concerns were discussed and that the students were referred to several University officers, including Epps, for possible resolution of the complaints. Further, the issue raised in May 21 article regarding what happened between Dean Epps and University guest Lane Nishikawa, head of the Asian American Theatre Company, was brought to the attention of this office and its director by students and Mr. Nishikawa himself. We hope for the sake of all parties involved, that the fall meeting requested in the letter from the AAA will take place and will resolve this matter amicably.
Students must have confidence in the fact that the office of the Harvard Foundation handles all complaints in a professional, confidential and fair manner, with proper regard for all other offices. It is irresponsible and unfair of the Crimson editors to suggest that the elected AAA student leaders did not have the ability to write a letter of complaint on their own, without help from University officials. Further, there is no record of any Crimson writer contacting this office for clarification of this matter before the unfortunate articles were written.
We at the Harvard Foundation work daily with committed FAS, administrators, masters and students to solve racial conflicts and to encourage our ethnically diverse student population to live and work together harmoniously. We will continue this good work with the hope that the Crimson editors will not use innuendo and biased journalism in an attempt to discredit minority students and staff or to hurt and impede our efforts to improve race relations and serve the needs of minority students at Harvard. Rather, we appeal to the present and future Crimson writers to join us, and to seek the valuable input and sound advice of the majority of fine Harvard students, faculty, and administrators of all races who are dedicated to making our University a model of racial harmony. S. Allen Counter Director, The Harvard Foundation
AAA Co-president Haewon Hwang '95 said that she and Co-president Joan R. Cheng '95 briefly discussed their grievances and the idea of the Epps letter with Counter. As quoted in both the May 21 and May 28 articles, Hwang said:
"I think that Dr. Counter basically said if we had any problems or anything race-related, he felt we should have our right to express ourselves."
Regarding Counter's assertion that "past and present" grievances "were referred to several University officers, including Epps," Hwang told The Crimson that Counter had not discussed the possibility of bringing the complaints to Epps.
The Crimson stands by the articles as originally reported and written.