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On March 27, a University-wide task force on Inclusion and Belonging announced its recommendations, calling on all of Harvard’s schools to step up efforts to better include those marginalized along racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, and ideological lines. Among the recommendations released were a series of concrete administrative changes, such as designated inclusive spaces in the Smith Campus Center that seek to facilitate a more vibrant dialogue within the Harvard community by bringing all perspectives—old and new—into conversation with each other.
This change, as well as the others mentioned in the report, should be applauded. The administration is using its power to advance an admirable goal, and one that is essential to Harvard’s mission: the facilitation of a diverse and nuanced dialogue. The willingness to take steps on an administrative level to better the community is a significant first step towards solving those structural problems, given the prominent role that administrative rules play in shaping our interactions and our culture.
However, that role is not absolute.
Those who are siloed into their own spaces, whether they be religious, ideological, racial, or along any other lines, cannot simply be induced to interact and engage in substantive dialogue with the inorganic creation of formal administrative spaces. If the community is to be transformed into one that reflects our highest ideals of diversity, inclusion, and open inquiry, it must be treated as an organic entity, where the culture is set not just in formal meetings but in classrooms, dining halls, and dorms. That cannot be done by the administration, but it can be done by the students.
To be sure, the administration has a role to play. There cannot be ideologically diverse classes without ideologically diverse faculty. There cannot be dialogue between students of different ethnicities, races, genders, and sexual orientations unless the administration admits students who are diverse across each of those categories.
But just simply hiring faculty of color cannot guarantee that white students will take their classes, and hiring conservative faculty cannot guarantee that liberal students will take their classes. Similarly, the creation of a formal multicultural space cannot guarantee that all parties, those who are currently included and those who are marginalized, will come to the table. The administration can set up the necessary space and context for change, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the students to bring that change about.
Thus, we believe that the administration, in addition to using its rule-making power, should also use its public authority to encourage the rest of the community to collaborate in improving our culture as well. Those of us not empowered with the ability to make administrative decisions should work to buttress the committee's recommendations as well as make their ideas a reality, and the administration should say so.
Without an up-front, frank acknowledgement of the limits of administrative power to shape culture and a call for students to join in the effort, the administration risks engendering complacency within the student body. The fact that such a comprehensive, carefully thought out report has been issued might lead some to focus less on the problem now, content in the knowledge that the administration has taken action.
If the vision laid out in these administrative changes is to be realized, students must instead react with more energy and determination, not less. The administration must call on students to see this not as a time to rest on our laurels but instead to seize the opportunity to implement the roadmap laid out by the task force and drive Harvard into an inclusive and diverse future.
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.
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