Scholars Discuss Ethnic Studies

The struggle for an ethnic studies program at Harvard will be an arduous one, visiting ethnic studies scholars said at a conference held Saturday in Harvard Hall.

Although organizers said more than 150 participants attended the conference, no member of the faculty Committee on Ethnic Studies took part. From the administration, only Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and Dean of Undergraduate Education J. Lawrence Buell attended.

Several faculty members not in attendance, including Afro-American Studies Professors Cornel West '74 and K. Anthony Appiah, endorsed the conference in writing.

"I thought [the conference] was very interesting," Epps said yesterday, adding that he had heard the keynote speaker and the first panel discussion.

"I'm fairly familiar with issues of ethnic studies, so the main interest for me was to see how ethnic stud- ies is implemented at other universities, especially in California," Epps said.

Buell attended the morning portion of the conference and then left for Switzerland.


The symposium, which featured professors from the University of California at Berkeley, University of Massachusetts at Boston and Boston College, was sponsored by the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker Evelyn HuDeHart, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at the University of Colorado at Boulder, set the tone for the conference.

"The mission of ethnic studies is to correct the omission and distortion of mainstream academia," she said.

She also commenced Co-Presidents of the AAC Julie C. Kim '97 and Veronica S. Jung '97 for their work on the conference.

"You are deep in the tradition of ethnic studies with your grassroots approach," Hu-DeHart said.

Conference organizers were optimistic about the effect of the conference on the student body.

"There were many students who attended who were previously not certain about what ethnic studies entailed," Jung said. "We're getting possible feedback about the conference. It put the issue into campus-wide attention and dialogue."

The Conference's Impact

Participants felt the conference was a step in the right direction for the College.

"I think that it's great that they're trying to get an ethnic studies program started," said Joy C. Elizondo, a graduate student of Romance languages who graduated from Berkeley, which is seen as a national leader in ethnic studies.

"I think having a conference at Harvard does lend legitimacy to the cause," said Wellesley senior Mai N. Nguyen. "But will the administration be accountable? Will they do something about ethnic studies now?"

Although the conference high-lighted different possible paths toward an integrated program in ethnic studies, the future of ethnic studies at Harvard is still uncertain, Epps said.

"It's not clear which direction" the development of an ethnic studies program will take, Epps said.

"In principle, it's important that all students be able to study the changing ethnic character of the country," Epps said. "I hope it's possible for Harvard to provide that aspect of education in some way.

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