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Coalition for a Diverse Harvard Backs Six Board of Overseers Candidates

University President Lawrence S. Bacow's offices are located in Massachusetts Hall.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow's offices are located in Massachusetts Hall. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Cara J. Chang and Isabella B. Cho, Crimson Staff Writers

The Coalition for a Diverse Harvard — a network of Harvard affiliates dedicated to increasing diversity and promoting equity at the University — endorsed six candidates for this year’s Board of Overseers election and six candidates for the Harvard Alumni Association’s elected directorships on March 20.

The Board of Overseers, Harvard’s second-highest governing board, provides input on the direction of the University, advises top Harvard administrators, and approves certain actions by the Harvard Corporation. Each of its 30 members serve six-year terms. Elections occur annually, with terms expiring for some members every year.

The Coalition endorsed six candidates for the Board of Overseers: Senior Adviser to the Mayor of Boston Monica Bharel, Africa Health Holdings CEO Sangu J. Delle ’10, University of Texas at Austin professor Lauren Ancel Meyers ’95, Devoted Health Executive Chair Todd Y. Park ’94, former special adviser to the CEO of HP Kim M. Rivera, and ​​federal judge Wilhelmina M. “Mimi” Wright.

The Harvard Alumni Association is in charge of coordinating events for more than 400,000 alumni globally.

The Coalition also endorsed six candidates for elected directorships at the HAA: University of Texas at San Antonio assistant professor Sofia Bahena, Microsoft venture capital fund portfolio manager Michael K. Bervell ’19, SDA Conseil President André Du Sault, Elias Law Group associate Jyoti Jasrasaria ’12, ChildFund Mexico Head of Fundraising Corina Santangelo, and Magic Deer Consulting founder Judith Michelle Williams ’91.

Nine candidates are vying for six open seats in both elections. One extra seat is up for grabs in the Board of Overseers election this year due to the early departure of professor Tracy K. Smith ’94 from the body.

This election cycle marks the seventh year that the Coalition has endorsed candidates. According to the Coalition, 48 of the 59 candidates it has endorsed in the last six years have been elected.

The Coalition calls for the creation of an ethnic studies program at Harvard, support for race-conscious admissions policies, and increased transparency from the Board of Overseers. The organization decides its endorsements based on a diversity questionnaire it sends candidates, as well as research and interviews conducted by the Coalition.

Ten of the twelve of the candidates the Coalition endorsed this election cycle are Coalition members.

The Coalition also noted that — as in 2017 and 2019 — none of the 18 candidates in this year’s election cycle publicly identify as BLGTQ, an issue the organization promised it would raise with the HAA.

Michael G. Williams ’81, a member of the Coalition’s Board of Directors, said the Coalition and other alumni groups that backed the endorsements are confident the endorsed candidates will advance the Coalition’s mission.

“The Coalition, as well as the other organizations, feel very strongly that this is a group of endorsed candidates who will stand for diversity, equity, and inclusion and racial justice at Harvard,” he said. “It’s a real and serious commitment to them that’s reflected in the work that they’ve done — in many cases the work that they’re currently doing.”

Harvard Forward, a student and alumni group focused on promoting climate consciousness and increased representation within Harvard’s governance boards, did not field candidates for this year’s election, despite success in previous years.

Voting begins Friday. Ballots can be submitted online or by mail until 5 p.m. May 17. All Harvard graduates who have received their degrees by Jan. 1 are eligible to vote, except for alumni currently holding positions in University governance.

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Staff writer Isabella B. Cho can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.

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