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Riley Must Go

By George J Lok
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Last week, a Crimson investigation revealed an extremely troubling culture of discrimination and favoritism within the Harvard University Police Department. Twenty-one current and former HUPD officers attested — via interviews, multiple lawsuits, formal discrimination complaints, and meetings with University administrators among other means — to a work environment that can only be described as toxic. They allege, for instance, that HUPD officers have used racial slurs with little consequence, that female officers are passed over for promotions and face increased scrutiny, and that HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley, at the center of these allegations, “rewards members of his inner circle while passing over officers who voice concerns.”

Condemning the alleged toxic, discriminatory culture these officers paint is necessary, but not nearly sufficient. These allegations are alarming to say the least, and they inevitably reframe how we think about past HUPD-related incidents, including the interaction between students of color in Romance Languages and Literatures Professor Lorgia García Peña's course. The University cannot reasonably expect its student body, and minority students in particular, to trust HUPD under Chief Riley — a man consistently identified as either creating or enabling this culture. Not only for this urgent practical reason, but also out of clear moral obligation, we call for his immediate resignation.

These events represent an egregious wrong that demands accountability. We extend our sympathy and support to those HUPD officers who have experienced (and may still be experiencing) acts of harassment and discrimination, particularly those who were forced to remain silent out of fear of retaliation and economic need. Only with Riley’s departure can HUPD begin to mend the evident rifts within the department and its relationship with the student body.

Failing to ensure a good relationship between Harvard affiliates and HUPD threatens the safety of everyone on campus by making effective communication with individual officers less likely. Indeed, Riley’s presence at the top of the department stains the public’s perception of the many fair-minded, conscientious officers that keep our campus safe, actively hurting both his force and the student body more broadly.

While Chief’s Riley’s resignation is vital, it is not, however, sufficient. Beyond Riley himself, the university bears significant responsibility for the events. Prior to Crimson’s reporting, top Harvard officials appear to have consistently ignored numerous signs that pointed at the problematic dynamics at play in the department. From filings with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, to settled lawsuits and unfruitful meetings, Harvard remained unfazed despite multiple red flags.

The University did not act in the students' best interest by withholding information about many of these incidents and continuing to allow officers who had allegedly committed racist and sexist acts to continue interacting with students on a daily basis. We condemn the top Harvard officials who were allegedly informed of the department’s culture and failed to take action, including Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay, Senior Advisor to the President John S. Wilson, ombudsman Lydia L. Cummings, and Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp, as well as any others not revealed by the Crimson’s reporting. We call for an investigation into the alleged negligence displayed by top leadership that reveals why so many complaints fell on deaf ears, and an appropriate response to its findings.

Harvard can’t erase the pain allegedly inflicted by Riley during his time as the head of the department. But we can — we must — strive to do better. That work starts with Riley's resignation.

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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