The Diversity Task Force Report, Analyzed

A University-wide diversity task force at Harvard released their final report to the public in late March. Here, The Crimson annotates the report's key recommendations.
By Kristine E. Guillaume and Ruth A. Hailu

By The Harvard Crimson

A University-wide diversity task force at Harvard released their final report to the public in late March. In the 44-page document and appendices, the task force outlines a working framework of “Four Goals” and “Four Tools” as well as a set of eight recommendations meant to help the University address issues inclusion and belonging among students, faculty, staff, and academic personnel across Harvard’s schools.

University President Drew G. Faust, who convened the task force in Sept. 2016, responded to the report in an email to Harvard affiliates last week, in which she outlined plans to begin implementing its recommendations before she steps down in June. As part of these plans, Faust decided—in consultation with President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow—to designate $10 million of presidential funds to increased faculty recruitment and renewal.

Faust also appointed John S. Wilson Jr., the President-in-Residence at the Graduate School of Education and the former president of Morehouse College, as a senior adviser and strategist to the University president on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Wilson will oversee efforts to improve inclusion at the University and will hire central administrative personnel to conduct this work for the duration of this spring and next academic year.

Below, The Crimson annotates some of the report's key recommendations.

'Four Goals' Framework

The “Four Goals” for bolstering inclusion and belonging at Harvard establish a framework via which each school can form concrete practices and implementation plans for inclusion and belonging. The task force created the four goals based on the feedback they received during outreach sessions after releasing a draft executive summary in Sept. 2017.

Goal Two: Seeking Integration

The second goal focuses on integration on an academic, professional, and social level throughout Harvard that permits everyone to “be their authentic selves.” The four areas of focus include academic and professional excellence, responsive curricula, collaboration and teamwork, and improved mentoring. Some specific recommendations involve incorporating “input from students into faculty-led curricular planning processes.” The goal is to adapt to student demand by establishing new courses, hiring new faculty, and integrating student input into the process of crafting syllabi.

Goal Three: Academic Freedom

This goal highlights a central theme throughout the report—that the University must work to “promote academic freedom alongside mutual respect and concern.” In the introduction, the document states, “we heard a clear theme that many conservative students on campus engage in self-censorship to avoid possible alienation from peer groups. We cannot afford to presume a necessary conflict between protecting academic freedom and a culture of mutual respect.” This third goal has three separate “areas of focus”: examining disciplines like history and psychology to connect with one another, developing skills for difficult conversations, and creating time and space for difficult conversations.

'Four Tools' Proposal

The proposed “Four Tools” for inclusion and belonging stem from the four goals. These four tools are already in existence at the University, but the task force charges there must be a more coordinated effort to improve diversity initiatives at Harvard. In previous sections of the report, the task force asserts that, though the composition of the University has become more diverse overall, progress across groups has been “frustratingly uneven.”

Eight Key Recommendations

The “Eight Recommendations” are addressed to the President and Provost, according to Allen, who said these recommendations are direct action items for the president. The first three recommendations, dubbed “High-Impact First Steps,” comprise the task force’s short term goals. The last five recommendations, dubbed “Sustained Focus on Inclusive Excellence,” comprise longer-term goals aimed at creating institutional structures for inclusion and belonging at Harvard.

Faust has already begun to act on goals listed in both of these sections, though some will come under Bacow’s purview once he moves into Massachusetts Hall in July. In addition to the $10 million fund for faculty renewal, Faust established a requirement that deans and administrators must produce plans to advance inclusion and belonging within their schools or units.

Inclusive Symbols and Spaces

The first recommendation is one that has remained consistent through the task force’s two iterations of the report: a commitment to “inclusive symbols and spaces.” This recommendation urges the University to revise its alma mater and its values statement.

The report also recommends using the Smith Campus Center as a shared space open for programming that supports “civil disagreement,” which harkens back to the task force’s emphasis on enforcing academic freedom. Faust announced Tuesday she and Bacow will work with Allen to brainstorm ways the University can create “community conversations” to bring contrasting perspectives into a productive discussion.

Part of this recommendation has already been fulfilled. The task force launched a competition in April 2017 to revise the last line of the alma mater, which had read “Till the stock of the Puritans die” since its composition in 1836. The winner of the competition, Janet B. Pascal ’84, authored the new last line of the alma mater: “Till the stars in the firmament die,” a change that took effect immediately with the release of the final report.

Two University-Wide Research Centers

This recommendation proposes Harvard build two University-wide research centers, one focused on “identity, politics, and culture” and one on “higher education, inclusion and belonging, and organizational change.” The report suggests both centers should be designed by a group of the faculty to bring diversity initiatives already taking place across Harvard’s schools into one space.

The “identity, politics, and culture” center would focus on bringing course offerings and programs on topics like race, gender, sexuality, and inequality from all of Harvard’s schools together under one roof. The second center—oriented around “higher education, inclusion and belonging, and organizational change”—would focus on supporting “efforts at Harvard to move forward on inclusive excellence.”

After the release of the draft executive summary last September, Ethnic Studies advocates criticized the report for failing to explicitly call for a program or center in ethnic studies, something ethnic studies advocates have requested for decades. In their most recent effort, the Ethnic Studies Coalition petitioned the University to create such a center and increase faculty hiring and renewal in the field.

In response, Allen said she viewed ethnic studies proposals as “College-specific” in an Sept. 2017 interview. On Monday, she said the final recommendation for the two centers marked the area where ethnic studies had its “greatest impact” on the entire report.

Enhanced Mental Health Resources

The recommendation for enhanced mental health services is a new addition; it was not mentioned in the draft version of the report. The task force suggests the University should allocate resources more effectively to Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) through “strategic planning” in the form of campus-wide mental health and well-being surveys.

After the task force published its draft version of the report, the group conducted outreach sessions across campus to collect feedback on their initial iteration. Allen said the task force said many stakeholders across the University pointed to mental health as a concern, prompting the task force to formalize this recommendation.

“The mental health issue was one that really came out through a lot of different channels in that conversation as a key piece,” Allen said.

Faust has decided to allocate presidential funds to University Health Services to address the need for improved mental health services at Harvard through a “strategic planning process.”

“The Office of the Provost and the leadership of UHS have recognized that the demographic changes in our community have implications for the delivery of mental health care,” Faust wrote.

Transparency, Feedback, and Dialogue

This recommendation reiterates the task force’s emphasis on “transparency” stated in the “Four Tools” framework. The task force proposes that the President and Provost conduct reports every three years, beginning in 2020, on all constituencies on which the report focuses. The task force recommends utilizing a standardized survey module consistent with modern data-collection techniques and working from the “bottom-up” in terms of participation.

Increased Resources for Faculty

In this recommendation, the task force responds to many calls from Harvard affiliates for increased faculty diversification and faculty renewal throughout the University. The recommendation suggests the University should work with its governing boards—the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers—to allocate financial resources geared toward faculty renewal, support cluster hiring, and reassess the logistics of hiring plans.

This recommendation also calls for more collaboration with the Radcliffe Institute and Harvard’s other schools to support “curricular innovation.” This collaboration forms a piece of the report Faust has decided to implement immediately. Faust wrote the Radcliffe Institute will host a workshop next year led by Harvard faculty to discuss designs and organizational models that can foster work in inclusion and belonging, especially in curricular work.

This part of the report harkens back to themes in earlier portions of the document, including fostering a culture of “mutual respect” and establishing norms at Harvard that support female faculty and faculty from underrepresented minorities.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.

—Staff writer Ruth A. Hailu can be reached at Follow her on twitter @ruth_hailu_

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