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To the Editor:
The Harvard Kennedy School of Government has reached a crisis point when it comes to racial inequity and injustice. This is not just our opinion but one shared by multiple affinity groups on campus and 375 Kennedy School affiliates who have signed a letter calling on the Kennedy School to create a “culture and environment built on the principles of anti-racism.” This problem is not new. The Kennedy School has a well-documented history of struggling “to recruit and maintain minorities” as professors; prior students have demanded “more attention to issues of race and racism in curriculum”; and current students say “institutional racism lives at HKS.”
That’s why we’re so disappointed to see a recent article “Harvard Kennedy School Dean Elmendorf Says He Supports the ‘Passion’ of Student Activists” (February 27). While we appreciate Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf’s engagement and the steps the Kennedy School has taken, they are too little too late. For example, the open letter called for “a mandatory course on the history of race and inequality for Fall 2020.” Dean Elmendorf’s proposal to incorporate these issues into existing classes is inadequate. The choices we make reflect our values, and the decision to not include a core, mandatory course on race and inequality speaks volumes. It also continues to fail students who need this knowledge to avoid perpetuating systems of oppression in their public policy work.
We were also disappointed to see that no student voices were included in this piece, especially given The Crimson’s public commitment to “make every effort to contact the individuals and institutions we write about.” Instead of giving the the Kennedy School administration yet another opportunity to avoid meaningful collaboration with students, The Crimson should have included the voices of students who have been working to hold the Kennedy School accountable. Recognizing our passion is not enough. We demand real change, and we won’t wait.
James R. Blum is in his first year at the Harvard Kennedy School. Emily S. Chi is in her second year at the Harvard Kennedy School. Sophie P. Dover is in her second year at the Harvard Kennedy School.
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