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Calls for a multicultural center at Harvard aren’t new. As early as the 1960s, students have poured their labor into various forms of activism: proposals, reports, task forces, committees, protests, editorials, survey responses. If there was a channel for expressing student opinion in the past half-century at Harvard, the conversation around a multicultural center no doubt made an appearance.
But apparently, 50 years isn’t long enough.
In a November interview, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said there were challenges surrounding the creation of a multicultural center and that Harvard will need to continue research before making any decisions. “I appreciate that from a student's perspective that things can seem like they take a longer time. And partly, you know, it's because constructing anything… takes time,” he said.
While we appreciate that from a current administrator’s perspective that it seems like students demands for a multicultural center ignore a time-consuming research and implementation process, we implore Khurana and other administrators to consider its history as a proposal. This is not an issue today’s students have spearheaded, nor one that has been “rushed” in any sense of the term.
It’s been over half a century, and nothing has changed. The administration has yet to announce any steps directly dedicated to the implementation of a multicultural center that promise action, preferring instead a course of nebulous rumination. Any senior administrator offering such indifference towards a multicultural center, even if the statement technically leaves the door open for such a center in the future, disheartens us as an ongoing part of that tendency to defer to simply thinking about an issue and nothing else.
Next year’s president and vice president of the Undergraduate Council — James A. Mathew ’21 and Ifeoma E. White-Thorpe ’21 — have made it clear that establishing a multicultural center is a top priority for them in 2020. While these goals are admirable and laudable, the burden of achieving this goal should not be placed on any sole group or individual, but rather the University collectively. The UC at its best can only be a platform meant to represent students, springboard their concerns, and advocate for change. To place the overwhelming task of creating a multicultural center — a task that’s been in the works for half a century — on the shoulders of two individuals over the course of their one-year tenure is unreasonable. And while this task does not fall squarely on the UC, to the extent that the group represents students and that the creation of a multicultural center continues to be a student demand, we still encourage the Council to continue advocating for it.
If Khurana truly believes more time is required, we encourage him to clarify what exactly the extra time will accomplish, and to offer a programmatic schedule of fact-finding and planning that will pave the way — at long last — to an actual multicultural center. In the absence of such a program, we unfortunately cannot view this statement as anything more than a continuation of the University’s storied history of stonewalling efforts to bring a multicultural center, something many comparable institutions already have, to Harvard.
Without any clear pathway to action, Khurana’s statement seems to be yet another sign that a multicultural center isn’t coming anytime soon. Hopefully we aren’t waiting another 50 years.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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