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Harvard's Design School Takes Steps to Promote Diversity, Address Sexual Misconduct

Gund Hall
Gund Hall houses one of the central workspaces for Graduate School of Design students.
Harvard's Graduate School of Design will hire a new administrator focused on diversity and inclusion as it seeks to implement a series of changes intended to improve the school’s culture.

The recently announced policy changes are part of a series of ongoing initiatives to promote a culture of respect and to create institutional accountability at the Design School. In an email sent to students, Dean of Students Lauren Snowdon grouped the updates under three general categories: students, staff, and faculty.

Regarding “students,” Snowdon wrote that the University-wide Title IX Office plans to create a graduate student liaison working group chaired by the Student Forum Chair of Diversity and Inclusion. The new group will work to assess the effectiveness of current programs and make recommendations to the office on behalf of students.

Staff members from the Title IX Office and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response also plan to reach out to students to seek interest in different types of programming for the year, according to the email.

Under the category of “staff,” Snowdon announced the creation of a new position at the Design School: an assistant dean for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. The hiring process is ongoing, she wrote. The Design School also recently unveiled a new course called “Gender, Diversity and Inclusion” that is being offered to staff members starting this month.

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Under “faculty,” the email confirmed the implementation of mandatory online Title IX training for faculty members — a new requirement across the University announced last spring. Drawing on student feedback from course evaluationsin which students raised concerns about disrespect, racism, and sexism at the school, department chairs have also been holding meetings with visiting faculty affiliates to discuss expectations of appropriate conduct.

These changes came after a spreadsheet filled with anonymous accounts of sexual misconduct and racist acts allegedly perpetrated by men in architecture began circulating on campus last spring. The spreadsheet, titled "Shitty Architecture Men," included accusations against at least 18 GSD affiliates. It was met with student protest at the school; last spring, student organizations collaborated on an installation in Gund Hall that consisted of banners demanding action against sexual misconduct. More than 35 female faculty members signed a statement in support of student activists.

Pamela H. Baldwin, the Design School’s assistant dean for faculty affairs, wrote in an email that the school is facilitating ongoing dialogues between students, faculty, staff, and top administrators, which gave rise to the recent changes focused on diversity and inclusion. She added that school affiliates can expect more changes in the future.

“The dialogue and actions taking place at the GSD have been deeply collaborative, involving people from all areas of the school,” Baldwin wrote.

The Dean’s Diversity Initiative, a standing committee tasked with advancing inclusion at the Design School, has a particularly “ambitious agenda this year,” Baldwin wrote.

Snowdon wrote in an emailed statement that she was hopeful about the current momentum for change at the school.

“While we have always been committed to fostering inclusion and belonging at our school, we need to keep reexamining our policies and resources and updating them as appropriate,” Snowdon wrote. “I am especially optimistic about our forthcoming Assistant Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, an officer that will have influence across many GSD functions.”

Conversations at the Design School about cultivating inclusion and respect coincide with animated debates over sexual assault and misconduct across Harvard and nationally.

This past week, students from across the University filed Title IX complaints against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation to prevent him from returning to teach at the Law School.

Harvard is still investigating allegations of sexual harassment against former Government Professor Jorge I. Dominguez spanning decades. Dominguez retired from the University last spring in the wake of the controversy.

—Staff writer Ruth Zheng can be reached at ruth.zheng@thecrimson.com

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