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Dean of Students Office Discusses Housing Day, Anti-Racism Goals

Administrators in the Dean of Students Office reflected on their office's planning for virtual Housing Day and its commitment to anti-racism.
Administrators in the Dean of Students Office reflected on their office's planning for virtual Housing Day and its commitment to anti-racism. By Allison G. Lee
By Hannah J. Martinez and Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt ’01 and Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion and Belonging Alta Mauro discussed virtual Housing Day and the Dean of Students Office’s commitment to anti-racism in an interview earlier this month.

Housing Day — a spirited annual event in which freshmen learn of their assignment to one of the twelve upperclassmen houses — will be held virtually for the second consecutive year on March 12, roughly one year after Harvard first sent students home due to the coronavirus crisis.

“I will say I don’t think anyone anticipated we would be doing two virtual Housing Days, so I just want to acknowledge that that is a strange and unusual thing,” Brandt said.

“I do want to really commend the [House Committees],” she added. “I think they’ve been doing fabulous work and being creative and thinking through different ways to welcome what will be the newest members of their community.”

In a typical year, House Committees commemorate Housing Day by planning house-wide socials and house-themed music videos to drum up pride for their respective houses. In light of the remote semester, House Committees have shifted to hosting virtual programming, including house-themed trivia and Zoom escape rooms.

Brandt added the Dean of Students Office incorporated student feedback from last year into planning this year’s Housing Day.

“We are adjusting timing to make sure that we’re able to really work with students who are both here and those who are learning remotely,” she explained. “We consulted with the First-Year Experience office around scheduling, and we’ve been working to identify the main components of Housing Day.”

In the interview, DSO administrators also reflected on the progress of the goals set by their office at the beginning of the school year. This year’s goals include greater solicitation and implementation of student feedback, a commitment to anti-racism, and better support of student development during remote semesters.

Mauro highlighted efforts taken on by the DSO to evolve into “an actively anti-racist organization,” including a plan to develop an anti-racist training curriculum for DSO staff members and to implement an “inclusive excellence framework” to analyze hiring and promotion trends.

“We recognize the importance of self-awareness,” Mauro said. “We really wanted to take some time to make sure we understand, at baseline, what does anti-racism mean? How can we become more self-aware? What are barriers that we have as an organization to becoming anti-racist?”

Mauro added she intends for the anti-racist training curriculum to become “foundational” for staff working in Harvard’s residential life.

“There’s a real great intentionality in developing and training, particularly for staff across residential life as well and involving folks who are working in residence life at the end of this pilot to then retool that training program as foundational for folks who come into residence life in the future,” she said.

—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at hannah.martinez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.

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

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