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Harvard Announces Inaugural Gender Equity Summit

University Hall
University Hall.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow’s office announced Harvard will host its first gender equity summit — “Harvard Hears You: The 2019 Summit for Gender Equality” — on April 2 in an email to University affiliates Monday.

The event, jointly organized by the University’s Title IX Office and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, will include panels, talks, and question-and-answer sessions. The University timed the event to coincide with the first day undergraduates can access the 2019 Association of American Universities’ sexual conduct climate survey, according to University Title IX Officer Nicole M. Merhill.

“As we were talking about pulling together an event on this subject, we also were mindful of the fact that we are about to embark on administering the 2019 AAU survey,” Merhill said in an interview. Her office oversees gender and sex-based harassment prevention and education initiatives on campus.

Harvard first participated in the survey in 2015 and announced last semester it would be joining the second iteration.

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“Since the time of the first survey, the University has taken many, many steps to change things, to improve things for students,” Merhill said. “But we also recognize we have a long way to go, and the way to measure how we can do better is through looking at what progress we’ve made between 2015 and 2019.”

Monday’s “Save the Date” email described the event as including a number of panels, “TED-style” talks, and onstage interviews. There will also be a celebrity panel featuring unnamed guests.

“Candid discussions about key issues in the current climate including social movements, due process, and intersectional approaches to equity will be encouraged,” the unsigned email reads.

Merhill and Theodore J. Gilman, the Weatherhead Center’s executive director, said that “Harvard Hears You” is intended to both encourage participation in the survey and to spark conversations about gender equity on campus.

Merhill said the Title IX Office wanted to approach the summit’s subject on University, national, and global scales. The programming is meant to be flexible, so that students may engage with the conference as their schedules allow; programming will begin at 10 a.m.

“We want this consumable in bite-sized pieces, so if you’re passing through the Smith Center, and you happen to see that there’s a big crowd, and you want to check it out, you can,” Gilman said.

The event speaker list features faculty and staff across the University, including Bacow, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, Business School Professor Kathleen McGinn, and Academic Dean of the Kennedy School Iris Bohnet.

—Staff writer Simone C. Chu can be reached at simone.chu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @simonechu_.

—Staff writer Iris M. Lewis can be reached at iris.lewis@thecrimson.com.

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