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Harvard’s Pulse Has Been Taken — What’s Next?

By Thomas Maisonneuve
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

The results are in.

Last spring, roughly 44 percent of all Harvard affiliates — which includes University faculty, students, and staff — participated in Harvard’s first University-wide Pulse Survey on Inclusion and Belonging. The survey found that 52 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that they feel they belong at Harvard.

However, when you break down respondent attitudes demographically, the results are bleak. More than 30 percent of genderqueer and nonbinary respondents, Muslim respondents, Middle Eastern respondents, black or African American respondents, and bisexual respondents did not even “somewhat agree” that they belong at Harvard.

The fact that more than half of University affiliates feel they belong on campus is obviously a good thing. However, the demographic disparity and the alienation of marginalized groups that this statistic conceals are hugely troubling. It is sad and unacceptable that these groups disproportionately feel as if they don’t belong on our campus.

We also find the University’s practice of aggregating the responses of certain minority groups in its executive summary concerning. The University justifies this as a part of its effort “to ensure confidential and precise results.” However, we worry that this practice reflects the larger issue of how some of these specific groups tend to feel ignored on campus. The fact that individuals lumped into the aggregated race/ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation categories reported lower than average levels of belonging only reinforces this unfortunate impression.

Harvard has announced steps it is taking in response to the Pulse Survey’s results. These include creating the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Leadership Council and hiring a chief diversity and inclusion officer, among other interventions. Though we view these developments as positive and necessary, we are surprised that Harvard is only now taking steps to convene a University-wide inclusion and belonging council.

Moreover, the University must continue to work to build out its “One Harvard” model. Developing better relationships between Harvard’s different schools, pursuant to the One Harvard vision, can foster better collaboration on issues of diversity and inclusion, and has the potential to disseminate best practices and winning strategies across the University. We hope that these collaborations birth interventions that can make it easier for students, staff, and faculty alike to navigate what can already be an isolating space.

All that said, while we appreciate that the University is now taking steps to create institutional platforms to advocate for diversity and inclusion and belonging, we’re concerned that centralizing those institutions will not do enough to address the problem at hand. An ethos that pervades every facet of Harvard’s administration, where all concerns are addressed with those needs in mind, needs to be systemic rather than limited to a few centralized offices. While those offices might do some good, as long as their mission is isolated, they won’t do enough.

More must be done. Our classmates and other Harvard affiliates have good ideas on this front. We reiterate our support for some of the suggestions offered by survey respondents as described in the executive summary, such as the belief that establishing a multicultural center would help foster more inclusion and belonging at Harvard.

All staff, students, and faculty deserve to feel as if they belong at Harvard. Now that the University’s pulse has been checked, we hope a robust program of treatment will follow.

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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