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Students, Officials Debate Multicultural Center

By Melissa K. Crocker

Students and administrators mulled over the issue of creating a multicultural center for students on campus yesterday at a panel discussion held at Ticknor Lounge.

Approximately 40 people attended the discussion and listened to the opinions of the panelists, who included Faculty members and student leaders from a myriad of campus organizations.

All of the students who participated in the panel, with the exception of Undergraduate Council Treasurer John Appelbaum '97, a member of the Peninsula, were in favor of the center's creation.

"I don't think this center will include everyone or even can include everyone," Appelbaum said. "It would in fact foster segregation in its worst form."

James S. Hoyte, associate vice-president of the University, expressed trepidation but interest in creating the center.

Citing the success of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the University body that supports ethnic and cultural student organizations, said that he personally believes a multicultural center may be a good idea, but could hurt the Foundation.

"I wouldn't want the opportunity for interactions between various student groups provided by the Harvard Foundation to be lost if there were a multicultural student center," Hoyte said.

But finding no other reason to oppose the proposal of a multi-cultural center, Hoyte said, "Why not give it a shot?"

Hoyte's comments brought favorable reactions from David J. Andorsky '97, former chair of Hillel, who is clearly in favor of the creation of the center.

"I was pleasantly surprised that [Hoyte] seemed in favor of the idea," Andorsky said.

Andorsky added that Hoyte's view is a shift from the stance taken by the administration.

Andorsky provided several reasons for creating the multicultural center.

"When we talk about Harvard's diversity, we're really talking about two things," Andorsky said. "We want people to explore their own background, but we also want people to learn from each other."

"I would argue that not having such a center leads to a sequestering of homogeneous groups," he added.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, one of the major opponents to the proposal, said that his memory of Harvard after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the reasons he is against the center.

"The thing I remember the most about the memorial service [for Dr. King] was that the whites were on the inside of Memorial Church and the blacks were on the outside. I would like for us to live without that kind of division," Epps said.

Epps praised the diversity he said already exists on campus.

"Given the number of people of color at Harvard, which is now over 34 percent, I believe that the total college experience is multi-ethnic and multi-national," Epps said.

Appelbaum agreed with Epps, speculating that the center would only cause further separation among student groups.

The panelists' comments brought several strong reactions from the audience in the question and answer session that followed the panel discussion.

Grace K.L. Katabaruki '99 challenged Appelbaum's view that a "refuge" on campus for minorities is not necessary.

"I don't know why some people on the panel think that refuge is a bad word. Institutional racism still exists," Katabaruki said. "If you're not going to build a multicultural student center, then how are you going to create a safe space for me?"

Moderator Marco B. Simons '97 wrapped up the panel discussion by commenting on the its productiveness.

Andorsky said he has high hopes that there could be a broad consensus throughout campus about the issue of creating a multicultural center

"The thing I remember the most about the memorial service [for Dr. King] was that the whites were on the inside of Memorial Church and the blacks were on the outside. I would like for us to live without that kind of division," Epps said.

Epps praised the diversity he said already exists on campus.

"Given the number of people of color at Harvard, which is now over 34 percent, I believe that the total college experience is multi-ethnic and multi-national," Epps said.

Appelbaum agreed with Epps, speculating that the center would only cause further separation among student groups.

The panelists' comments brought several strong reactions from the audience in the question and answer session that followed the panel discussion.

Grace K.L. Katabaruki '99 challenged Appelbaum's view that a "refuge" on campus for minorities is not necessary.

"I don't know why some people on the panel think that refuge is a bad word. Institutional racism still exists," Katabaruki said. "If you're not going to build a multicultural student center, then how are you going to create a safe space for me?"

Moderator Marco B. Simons '97 wrapped up the panel discussion by commenting on the its productiveness.

Andorsky said he has high hopes that there could be a broad consensus throughout campus about the issue of creating a multicultural center

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