The Harvard Kennedy School recently released a diversity report showing that, despite recent attempts at reform, it remains predominantly white and male. Recently, the school has demonstrated a desire to improve the diversity of its student body, hiring Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Robbin Chapman earlier this year and implementing bias training for senior administration. However, despite these efforts, the school’s recent diversity report reveals that the school has made little progress in diversifying its student body and staff. As we have opined in the past, these revelations continue to be both unsurprising and disappointing.
The recent report revealed marginal increases in the diversity of some demographic groups enrolled in the Masters of Public Policy program, the largest one offered by the Kennedy School. The percentage of African-American students increased from four percent in 2015 to seven percent in 2018. The percentage of Hispanic and Latinx students made up seven percent of the student body in both 2015 and 2018.
While the percentage of Asian-American students increased from seven percent in 2017 to 17 percent in 2018, the taskforce was unable to explain the jump. We believe that the Kennedy School must work towards understanding which strategies are most effective at recruiting students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It should also strive to expand its aid program in order to attract students from low-income backgrounds.
The mission of the Kennedy School is to “improve public policy and public leadership across the United States and around the world.” However, the Kennedy School must consider that the nature of its curriculum and programs might prioritize topics of study that are most conducive to its current demographic makeup, which may only serve to reinforce the status quo. A revamped curriculum focusing more on international politics and underserved communities would create a space that is more supportive for a more diverse student body. Perhaps by considering these factors, the Kennedy School can begin to mitigate the discomfort felt by many students of color in the classroom and retain more of them.
Furthermore, the report showed that the faculty has not diversified either, with 79 percent of professors identifying as white, only one professor identifying as Hispanic/Latinx, and only two professors identifying as African-American. These numbers are not an improvement from the previous report. The Kennedy School should work in order to diversify its staff, which could contribute towards recruiting and retaining more students of color. Students who see their identities reflected in their professors and curricula are more likely to thrive at the Kennedy School.
Considering that two years ago, more than 40 Harvard alumni won seats in the 115th Congress, it is imperative that Harvard recognizes the influence that it wields over our future leaders and is held accountable for the compositions of its classrooms. We urge the Kennedy School to actively work towards on attracting students and staff who reflect the nation’s demographics. If this recent diversity report is any indication, their current efforts are not doing enough, if anything at all.
This staff editorial 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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