THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT of Health, Education and Welfare identifies four ethnic groups, including Asian-Americans, as minorities, and includes these groups in all minority-oriented programs. The HEW classifications are based on statistical data demonstrating economic and social disadvantage. But despite the federal policy, Harvard traditionally has found it unnecessary to recognize Asian-Americans as members of a minority group and to include them in all University programs for minorities.
The issue is far more serious than Asian-Americans' exclusion from participation in social events for minority students. On a philosophical level, it leaves Asian-Americans in limbo, members neither of a minority nor of the white majority. On a more concrete level, the effect of the university policy is to exclude Asian-American students from programs, such as minority recruitment and freshman orientation, designed to attract and encourage students who otherwise might not consider Harvard a community in which they would comfortably fit.
A group of third world students last week expressed just these sentiments, in the form of a demand that Asian-Americans receive minority classification within the University.
The response to this demand, presented to Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, has so far been only partially satisfactory. While agreeing to include Asian-American students in all programs his office initiates, Epps refused to acknowledge that they ought to be defined as a minority group. He further qualified his position by explaining that he acquiesced because a sufficient percentage of Asian-American students expressed an interest in his office's programs, not because he agrees they are an oppressed group.
It is difficult to believe that the University has discovered a set of data that will disprove the government's findings. While it may be true that Asian-American representation within the University is higher than that nation-wide, these students do not represent Asian-American communities throughout the country. It is in these communities that active recruitment is necessary, and the admissions offices should recognize the situation of Asian-Americans as the government does, and actively include them in all minority student recruitment and admissions programs. This effort to recruit within ethnic communities should be extended to all minorities, not Asian-Americans alone.
In addition the University as a whole, not just the College where third world students are now concentrating their demand, should recognize Asian-American students as members of a minority, in both the practical and philosophical sense of the word.