Minority Alliance Opens to All Undergraduates

News Analysis

Breaking away from its original form as a coalition of representatives from campus minority student groups, the Minority Students Alliance (MSA) is now opening its donors to all Harvard students.

The strategy is part of the organization's restructuring efforts, aimed at stimulating a stronger commitment to political activism, its leaders say. Last year the MSA consisted of 18 representatives--one from each member organization.

"The MSA has been around, in various forms, for about 10 or 15 years," says co-chair Kecia Boulware '96, who was elected last spring. "Our concerns have always been the same. But in the most recent past--in '92 and '93--the group wasn't very prominent on campus."

"This year, we have a very committed steering committee willing to put fourth the effort tom make sure our goals are met," Boulware says.

MSA objectives include more ethnic studies courses and increased hiring of minority faculty.


In recent years, support of MSA activities has been on the wane. Last spring, the group's demonstration over Junior Parents Weekend--in protest of a lack of diversity in Harvard's faculty and curriculum--had a turnout of only about 20, compared to the 100-person protest in 1993.

Former co-chair Jean I. Tom '96 says the organization is "absolutely" moving towards greater activism this year.

"We've been rebuilding these past three years," Tom says. "We opened up the MSA for general membership so that any student on campus interested in race relations and ethnic issues is welcome to join."

Also, "we've finally established an internal structure--we've created political and social-cultural committees. [And] we just amended the constitution. It was outdated; the last time we revamped it was in 1990," Tom says.

The changes are critical if the MSA is to fulfill its current agenda, Tom says. As groups addressing minority concerns, like the student organization Ethnic Studies Action Committee, begin to focus on specific issues the MSA has had to do likewise.

"We're all working on different aspects of the same issues. We didn't want to be redundant," Tom says. According Boulware, the group will be emphasizing "educational outreach" and increasing the number of minority faculty.

By inviting student membership, the MSA hopes also to encourage intercultural dialogues and strengthen social relations between minority students at Harvard, says Asian American Association (AAA) representative Sheila N. Swaroop '97. , 1

"We're planning a basketball game and a food fest," Swaroop says. "We just want to get together and promote intercultural discussions."

Leaders of several minority student groups responded favorably to the planned changes. Many said that increasing membership would mean stronger support of activities requiring more intense commitment.

Alex Cho '96, AAA president, says the move to open membership is "a good idea."

"Working on minority faculty hiring requires coordination from different groups; it requires manpower," Cho says. "Drawing upon the student body may make the MSA a stronger student organization.