A year after the departure of his predecessor, Dean Roland S. Davis has officially begun to serve in his capacity as the College’s associate dean for diversity and inclusion. In this role, Davis will be in charge of overseeing the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, and the Harvard College Women’s Center.
The past few months, during which his position was vacant, have been politically turbulent and increasingly difficult for the groups of students Davis’s position is meant to serve. It is against this tumultuous backdrop that we congratulate him on on his appointment and welcome him warmly to campus. We wish him the best as embarks on his journey to make the College more equitable and inclusive for all students.
In addition to well wishes, we urge Davis to prioritize taking concrete steps in making campus more inclusive. The first step towards this goal should be to build relationships with members of diverse students groups, including those involved with affinity groups. But in addition to simply meeting with students, Davis must ensure that these relationships lead to concrete changes led by the offices he oversees. Very often, students find that administrators grant them face time, but fail to take actionable steps to address the issues students highlight. Students should feel supported by Davis and the offices he oversees, not just heard by them.
Harvard still struggles with its legacy as an institution that only served the most privileged. It is only through concrete steps that the institution will transform from an exclusive space into one where all students, including those who are the most marginalized, will feel included.
In thinking critically about how to chip away at feelings of exclusivity at the College, Davis must seriously contend with the role social groups, including final clubs, play. As we’ve previously opined, addressing the exclusivity of final clubs is paramount to ensuring inclusivity on campus.
We understand that it may be premature for Dean Davis to take a public stance on this debate, given that he’s only been on the job for slightly more than two weeks. But even if he refrains from taking a public stance on the social group policy, it’s critical that Davis contend with one of the most significant proposed changes in undergraduate social life.
When consider other actions to take, we encourage Davis to consider basing his policy or programming initiatives on the guiding principles recommended by the Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging. While the draft of the report does not contain specific policy suggestions, it offers a framework and goals towards which all of Harvard’s schools should strive. Davis can help ensure these principles are enshrined at the College.
One particular policy change that can be implemented immediately is the formalization of the process by which the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion makes money available to members of marginalized groups. The office has funds that student groups can access, but it is done very informally and not all student groups realize that these funds are available. To address this, a formalized grant process should be created where affinity groups can apply for money to help them better support their respective communities. Streamlined financial support could be the first of the many concrete changes we hope to see from Davis’s tenure.
Students seek to feel supported by the University administration, and we are hopeful that Davis will be able to ensure this support through tangible, concrete actions.
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.