The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences administration announced the release of a five-year plan by the end of this semester to address eight “priority areas” within SEAS — among them the recruitment of diverse faculty, staff, and students, and the reduction and prevention of harassment and discrimination.
This initiative comes months after a climate survey released by SEAS reported 27 percent of respondents had experienced harassment or discrimination and that only 22 percent of respondents who reported incidents said they were “very satisfied” with administrators’ responses to the given incident. Women, underrepresented minorities, and members of the BGLTQ community were more likely to have reported incidents of harassment or discrimination.
Increasing diversity and inclusion at Harvard is not a new topic. In the past year alone, both the Government Department and the Statistics Department took meaningful steps toward making their individual departmental climates more inclusive. Despite these positive developments, however, across schools and academic departments, Harvard still has much to do towards creating a more diverse and welcoming environment. Just this past week, we have opined on the continued and pressing need for an ethnic studies program and the long road ahead for the Government Department in formalizing a plan to create a space free from and proactively responsive to sexual misconduct.
As the SEAS Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging creates this five-year plan, we have high hopes that it will present a real step forward for a SEAS community, as they have already done the important work of acknowledging its shortcomings in respect to diversity and inclusion. We especially hope that it will present immediate, concrete actions and solutions that will provide support for both current and future SEAS students facing harassment or discrimination.
Additionally, we urge the SEAS Committee to maintain a constant dialogue with SEAS students throughout the plan-drafting process, especially those committee members who themselves identify with races, genders, or identities that were reported as more likely to experience discrimination or harassment. SEAS must turn to groups that have been actively offered support systems for students — such as the Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers and Harvard Women in Computer Science — because these groups have led critical initiatives left by a lack of support for those facing marginalization, discrimination, or harassment. We hope the SEAS Committee takes into account these students’ and groups’ concerns and action-oriented ideas when crafting its plan.
We also hope that this plan will institutionalize systems and support structures that will be effective far past its intended five-year scope. Indeed, only through a multifaceted proposal — one which takes into account both current and future members of the SEAS community — can the SEAS department truly eradicate the negative culture which has manifested itself.
With its new, more than $1 billion Engineering and Applied Sciences expansion set to open in Allston in the Fall of 2020, Harvard has positioned itself to be a 21st-century leader in science and engineering through extensive planning and an extraordinary allocation of resources. We urge SEAS administrators to demonstrate a similar tenacity and commitment toward the ultimate goal of furthering diversity and inclusion so that the human resources and support structures of SEAS can be just as impressive, if not more so, than its new campus. Only then can SEAS be the educational leader that Harvard strives for it to be.
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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