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Students Plan Push for Ethnic Studies

By Sandhya R. Rao

In response to last week's Faculty Council rejection of a plan for a standing committee on ethnic studies, minority student leaders met last night to discuss possible routes toward a greater Faculty commitment to the field.

The student leaders will try to draw student and faculty support for the cause of ethnic studies, Xavier A. Gutierrez '95, president of Mexican-American student organization Raza said last night.

"We're going to try to make those...issues campus-wide issues through postering said tabling," said Alex H. Cho '96, co-president of the Asian American Association. "We'd like to reach out to faculty and talk to them."

The students will also meet with Dean for Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell to talk about ethnic studies, Gutierrez said.

This is the third time the Faculty Council has rejected plans for a standing committee on ethnic studies, according Assistant Professor of the Classics Cynthia Damon, a council member.

The committee would be charged with visiting faculty programs, publicizing courses and serving as a forum for discussing ethnic studies issues, Buell said.

At the meeting last night, the presidents of several minority student organizations expressed disappointment with the council's failure to pass the standing committee plan, Gutierrez said.

"[The Faculty Council is] afraid that if they take this one step to make this committee they will slide down the slippery slope and form a concentration," Minority Student Alliance member Hyewon T. Chong '95 said in an interview. "I'm very disappointed."

Chong said that the council's actions are perhaps meant to deceive students into thinking that progress is being made on the issue.

"I'm starting to feel disillusioned," Chong said. "They've been holding this in front of us for so long now, and now it's quietly deleted."

Ethnic studies courses are presently offered in a number of department but there is no permanent faculty committee to offer a tutorial or unified ethnic studies concentration.

The Faculty presently invites visitingprofessors on ethnic studies each year, andstudents can shape a special ethnic studiesconcentration from the courses which exist invarious departments.

But these options are not permanent ofextensive enough, students said, and the proposedstanding committee would improve the situation.

"The committee would help facilitate thecontinuity of ethnic studies courses," saidMinority Student courses," said Minority StudentAlliance Co-Chair Jean Tom '96. "[Otherwise] itwould take the initiative of each concentration."

Peggy H. Nguyen '94, who organized the ethnicstudies special concentration meeting in the fall,said that the feculty should respond to studentdemand for more ethnic studies courses.

"I think that ethnic studies is a valid fieldof study," Nguyen said. "If there is a group ofstudents that want to study it, then we no rightto deny them that," Nguyen said.

The plan to create a standing committee stemmedfrom last year's demands by the Coalition forDiversity for more ethnic studies courses.

Following the Coalition's Junior ParentsWeekend protest last spring and a series ofstudent meetings with top administrators, theEducational Policy committee (EPC) crafted theplan for the standing committee.

But the Faculty Council rejected the planbecause of its lack of clarity and a dearth offaculty to maintain its membership Buell, said.

Faculty Council members felt the plan needed tospecify the target ethnicities the prospectivestanding committee would focus on in courses,Buell said.

The rejection is not necessarily permanent,Buell said. The Faculty Council could vote on arevised plan for a standing committee.

"The position of the Faculty Council is that itwould be premature to put the seal of approval onthis committee," Buell said.

Council members questioned if a standingcommittee is the best way to implement ethnicstudies goals.

"[Is] that best way to fulfill the intellectualand pedagogical goals?" Professor of SociologyTheda Skocpol asked. "Sometimes [a committee] isdisfunctionary."

Students, however, defended the standingcommittee as a necessary first step towardaddressing the ethnic studies problem at anadministrative level.

Without a standing committee, "considering howbureaucracy-conscious Harvard is, anyinstitutionalization of a concentration [isdoubtful]," said Cho.

And both Buell and minority student leadersnoted the inevitably slow pace of change atHarvard.

While Buell defended progress already made bythe Faculty, he acknowledged that without measuresto continue expansion "the development of coursesin ethnic studies will be slowed down."

Cho said he does not retain much hope for quickchange on the matter.

"[The formation of an Ethnic Studiesconcentration] is something that my kids might noteven see," Cho said

The Faculty presently invites visitingprofessors on ethnic studies each year, andstudents can shape a special ethnic studiesconcentration from the courses which exist invarious departments.

But these options are not permanent ofextensive enough, students said, and the proposedstanding committee would improve the situation.

"The committee would help facilitate thecontinuity of ethnic studies courses," saidMinority Student courses," said Minority StudentAlliance Co-Chair Jean Tom '96. "[Otherwise] itwould take the initiative of each concentration."

Peggy H. Nguyen '94, who organized the ethnicstudies special concentration meeting in the fall,said that the feculty should respond to studentdemand for more ethnic studies courses.

"I think that ethnic studies is a valid fieldof study," Nguyen said. "If there is a group ofstudents that want to study it, then we no rightto deny them that," Nguyen said.

The plan to create a standing committee stemmedfrom last year's demands by the Coalition forDiversity for more ethnic studies courses.

Following the Coalition's Junior ParentsWeekend protest last spring and a series ofstudent meetings with top administrators, theEducational Policy committee (EPC) crafted theplan for the standing committee.

But the Faculty Council rejected the planbecause of its lack of clarity and a dearth offaculty to maintain its membership Buell, said.

Faculty Council members felt the plan needed tospecify the target ethnicities the prospectivestanding committee would focus on in courses,Buell said.

The rejection is not necessarily permanent,Buell said. The Faculty Council could vote on arevised plan for a standing committee.

"The position of the Faculty Council is that itwould be premature to put the seal of approval onthis committee," Buell said.

Council members questioned if a standingcommittee is the best way to implement ethnicstudies goals.

"[Is] that best way to fulfill the intellectualand pedagogical goals?" Professor of SociologyTheda Skocpol asked. "Sometimes [a committee] isdisfunctionary."

Students, however, defended the standingcommittee as a necessary first step towardaddressing the ethnic studies problem at anadministrative level.

Without a standing committee, "considering howbureaucracy-conscious Harvard is, anyinstitutionalization of a concentration [isdoubtful]," said Cho.

And both Buell and minority student leadersnoted the inevitably slow pace of change atHarvard.

While Buell defended progress already made bythe Faculty, he acknowledged that without measuresto continue expansion "the development of coursesin ethnic studies will be slowed down."

Cho said he does not retain much hope for quickchange on the matter.

"[The formation of an Ethnic Studiesconcentration] is something that my kids might noteven see," Cho said

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