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HKS Affiliates React with Disappointment to Annual Diversity Report

Following the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's release of its annual diversity report, school affiliates said they were disappointed at the newest numbers, which show that the school's faculty and student body remains overwhelmingly white and male.
Following the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's release of its annual diversity report, school affiliates said they were disappointed at the newest numbers, which show that the school's faculty and student body remains overwhelmingly white and male. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Raquel Coronell Uribe and Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Following the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s release of its annual diversity report, school affiliates said they were “disappointed” at the newest numbers, which show that the school’s faculty and student body remains overwhelmingly white and male.

Cassandra R. Duchan, the co-chair of the HKS Latinx Caucus, said she was “disappointed” with the results, and that the Kennedy School is not the “global institution” that it claims to be.

“We don't even have a population that reflects the world or even this country,” she said.

Diego A. Garcia-Blum, the school’s student body president, said in a written statement that the school’s students and faculty remain “largely unrepresentative of the world we live in.”

“How can we teach several classes on the issues facing indigenous peoples and yet only have one American Indian/Alaskan Native student to speak of their own experience in class?” he wrote. “How can we properly teach and discuss issues of social justice in our leadership classes when Black and Latinx students and faculty remain underrepresented?”

Kennedy School professor Khalil G. Muhammad — one of two tenured African American professors at the school— called the change in faculty diversity at the Kennedy School “glacial.”

Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote in an emailed statement the school recognizes the “imperative” to continue to increase diversity.

“Over the past several years, the Kennedy School has moved forward with determination to advance diversity and belonging, including through vigorous recruiting of students, cluster hiring of faculty members, and adding new courses,” he wrote.

Muhammad also took issue with the form of the report, and said it fails to show how little the school’s diversity has improved over time.

“I think the report is a disappointment as I said when it was first released two years ago, because the structure of the report fails to benchmark — either in the opening text, or in the way that the data is reported in — any way to measure change over time,” Muhammad said. “It's frustrating and disappointing to see that the administration refuses to give readers of this report an easy way to see how things have changed over at least the past three years.”

In the past, Elmendorf has said it will “take time” for new recruitment approaches to be fully implemented.

But Muhammad said the school’s refusal to commit to a specific timeframe makes the school’s “intentionality” to address diversity questionable, and that publishing an annual report without a point of comparison is the “bare minimum.”

“No private sector CEO would ever get away with simply presenting a moment in time snapshot of the company,” Muhammad said. “And no private sector leader would not be held accountable for setting goals and a timetable for achieving success in an area that was identified as a problem.”

“It seems not to apply to their own commitment to full transparency in how to measure their own efforts at increasing the presence of nonwhite faculty at Harvard Kennedy School,” he added.

Duchan also questioned the Kennedy School’s commitment to increasing representation based on their reliance on students’ labor to increase the diversity of the student body.

This semester, for example, members of the Latinx Caucus have felt that the task of recruiting students of color to the school has fallen to them, she said.

“We're doing all of that ourselves,” she added.

Lauren M. Lombardo, a student at the Kennedy School, agreed that the “formal burden” of increasing diversity and inclusion at the school should fall to the administration — not students.

“Students, faculty, staff, and administrators each have an important role to play in increasing the diversity of HKS,” she wrote in an email. “However, much of the formal burden belongs to HKS and Harvard administrators, not to students with little formal authority, and especially not to students who are underrepresented at our institution.”

Garcia-Blum also wrote about the importance of financial aid reform — a cause the school’s previous student leaders have also championed — in diversifying the student body.

“The admissions team should survey admits of color who rejected their offers about their reasoning for doing so, share those results with student groups representing those identities, and work on removing those barriers,” he wrote. “I also believe that the school should implement a need-based financial aid system so that not just the wealthy and well-connected can afford to come here.”

Still, he said that improving faculty diversity should be the top priority for HKS.

“Most urgently, the school needs to cluster-hire tenured and tenure-track faculty of color, working on issues that affect those communities, on a yearly basis,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at sixiao.yu@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at raquel.coronelluribe@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.

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