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First University-Wide Pulse Survey Finds Majority of Respondents Feel They Belong at Harvard

University President Lawrence S. Bacow works out of Massachusetts Hall in the center of Harvard Yard.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow works out of Massachusetts Hall in the center of Harvard Yard. By Sydney R. Mason
By Alexandra A. Chaidez and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

Fifty-two percent of respondents to Harvard’s pilot Pulse Survey on Inclusion and Belong said they agree or strongly agree with a statement inquiring whether they feel they belong at Harvard, according to the survey results released Wednesday.

Stemming from a recommendation made by the University-wide Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in 2018, the pilot launched in the spring and aimed to get a sense of the campus’s “pulse”— which the survey results described as the broad sense of how people who work and learn on campus feel about diversity and inclusion at the University.

Open to faculty, students, and staff, the administrators said the project was the largest optional survey in Harvard’s history with more than 20,000 affiliates — roughly 44 percent — filling out the questionnaire.

The survey comprised nine questions that asked respondents to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements like, “I feel like I belong at Harvard” and “I receive meaningful recognition for doing good work,” as well as one open-ended question about how to improve campus climate.

In addition to the 52 percent of respondents who said they agree or strongly agree that they belong at Harvard, 25 percent said they “somewhat agree.”

The survey also included a demographics questionnaire that asked respondents to answer questions about their race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other categories.

Students dissented most strongly with the statement “I believe Harvard leadership will take appropriate action in response to incidents of harassment and discrimination.” Thirty-four percent of students disagreed with the statement, while 23 percent of staff did not agree.

An Association of American Universities survey, a national sexual misconduct climate survey administrated in April, found similar results: 50 percent of undergraduate women said they think it is very or extremely likely that a campus official would take their report seriously.

In the Pulse Survey, categories with less than 70 percent of respondents saying that they at least “somewhat agree” that they belong at the University include genderqueer and nonbinary respondents, Muslim respondents, Middle Eastern respondents, black or African American respondents, and bisexual respondents.

Among faculty, the statement “My relationships at Harvard are as satisfying as I would want them to be” incurred the highest rate of disagreement at 25 percent.

The final report accompanying the survey results characterized it as a “high-level ‘pulse,’” not a “high-resolution ‘MRI.’”

“It is intended to take the Harvard Community’s ‘pulse’ to complement and help catalyze more specific/localized inclusion and belonging efforts at Schools and Units across campus,” the report reads.

The report also laid out several immediate actions the University plans to take in response to the survey results, including creating a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Leadership Council, building a website specifically for diversity and inclusion, and hiring a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

The report states that the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging has tasked an executive search firm to find candidates for the role.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

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