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Search for ‘Critical’ Diversity Dean to Last At Least Through December

By Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writer

The search for a new assistant dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion began last month and will last at least through early December, according to Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair.

Emelyn A. dela Peña, who previously held the role, left Harvard on Oct. 20 for a new position at Washington University at St. Louis.

In the interim period, O’Dair has been supervising the leadership of the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Women’s Center, and Office of BGLTQ Student Life.

“This is a critical position to fill and one that we are approaching thoughtfully and strategically,” O’Dair wrote in an email to The Crimson.

She added that the Office of Student Life first engaged with an executive search firm two weeks ago, and the firm is currently looking to launch a national search for dela Peña’s replacement. The search consultant will be on campus in December to meet with students, staff, and faculty, with a timeline and more details for the search process “to be confirmed after the consultant’s visit.”

Coming on the heels of the surprising victory of President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 8, the College’s search for a new assistant dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion has taken on increased relevance in recent days.

Propelled to the Oval Office in part by his fiery anti-immigrant rhetoric, Trump has stoked fears on campus about how his administration could affect the ability of undocumented students to continue to pursue their education at Harvard.

A petition calling on Harvard’s administration to protect the University’s undocumented students has garnered more than 4,000 signatures. Calling for immediate action, the petition demands that Harvard quickly hire a new assistant dean to fill the position dela Peña vacated.

The petition was followed by a rally in Harvard Yard, at which about 200 people congregated on the steps of Widener Library and delivered speeches before dozens of demonstrators, who then marched to University Hall to deliver the petition to administrators.

Aware of students’ concerns, O’Dair sent a College-wide email on Wednesday detailing steps the OSL has been taking to protect undocumented students at Harvard.

“Over the past week, I have met and talked with many of you about your anxiety and uncertainty regarding what lies ahead for our country, as well for our Harvard College community,” she wrote.

Condemning any act of bias, harassment, or discrimination on campus, she additionally said that she had asked Loc Truong, the director of diversity and inclusion programs for the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, to make resources that are available to undocumented students more visible and accessible.

O’Dair concluded her email with a brief update on the College’s progress in searching for a new assistant dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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