After a month of gathering support, the Minority Students' Alliance (MSA) has again submitted a proposal to the College requesting space for a "inter-ethnic resource center."
The request, submitted to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III after the Thanksgiving break, asked the College to assign a permanent space in which more than 30 ethnic groups and the student body could meet and interact.
According to MSA Co-President Albert H. Khine '97, Epps was not enthusiastic about the proposal when Khine and Co-President Sheila N. Swaroop '96 introduced it to him.
"Unofficially he has rejected this proposal," Khine said.
Epps was not available to comment on the proposal yesterday. Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 referred all questions to Epps.
Epps opposed an earlier proposal for a multicultural student center by the MSA in October because he believed it would promote racial separation.
"It would be inconsistent with [Harvard's] purpose to set aside space for racial, ethnic and cultural groups," Epps said at the time. "Third-world or multicultural centers promote racial separation."
In a letter to the MSA dated October 31, Epps explained the College's position.
Instead of establishing a multicultural center, Epps wrote that the College had founded the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations "to help students share different cultures and ethnic traditions within the College."
Including the MSA, 22 student groups signed the request. Khine said yesterday the Academic Affairs Committee and the Student Advisory Committee of the Harvard Foundation also support the proposal.
Khine, who is a Crimson editor, defended the notion of an inter-ethnic center, saying the new proposal has broad-based, multi-ethnic support.
"If you look at a lot of the groups, we've always included the Caucasian races," Khine said. "You can always gain from having different perspectives."
"Some of these groups that are actively supporting us that have signed the petition are, for instance, [Harvard-Radcliffe] Hillel and the Irish Historical and Cultural Society--groups that aren't necessarily considered third-world," he said.
The new proposal noted that the College agreed to assign space for a resource center to the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students' Association
Swaroop added that the Black Students' Association and the Asian-American Association had office space in Memorial Hall from 1983 to 1991.
"We asked for space in Loker Commons, and we didn't think it was an unreasonable request given that there had been ethnic organizations that had space down there before," Swaroop said.
Rooms in the Commons will be used by classes and student groups, Epps wrote in the October 31 letter.
"It will be possible for student groups to meet in the Commons in flexible, multi-functional meeting rooms, but assignments will not be permanent," Epps wrote. "We want to avoid the old problem of 'dead space,' i.e., where offices are used primarily for storage."
Swaroop and Khine said they hope the support of the 22 student groups will persuade Epps and the administration of the need for a center.
"We've shown them that there is a clear need and strong support for this kind of center, and they haven't been very responsive," Swaroop said, "We are probably going to take further action.