Gay’s selection in December after a five-month search marks the shortest presidential search in nearly 70 years. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Gay is the current dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and she will be the third consecutive University president selected from within Harvard governance. She will succeed current president Lawrence S. Bacow, who announced in June that he plans to step down at the end of the academic year.
The search committee — which included two billionaires, two former Obama administration officials, and two university presidents — convened formally about 20 times to pare down a list of more than 600 nominees. The 15-member team was chaired by Penny S. Pritzker ’81, the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.
Gay was chosen for her administrative experience and ability to command faculty respect, search committee and Corporation member Shirley M. Tilghman told The Crimson. The appointment was met with praise from faculty and students, who expressed optimism that Gay’s leadership will facilitate greater collaboration between students and administrators.
In the year ahead, Gay will be tasked with navigating the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on a high-stakes affirmative action lawsuit against Harvard, appointing four new deans, and seeing University finances through global economic uncertainty. She will officially assume her post in Massachusetts Hall on July 1, 2023.
—Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writer
In April, Harvard released a long-awaited report detailing the University’s “extensive financial ties” to slavery and pledged $100 million to redress Harvard’s role in profiting from slavery.
Released more than two years after University President Lawrence S. Bacow created the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, the report found that prominent Harvard faculty, staff, donors, and presidents enslaved more than 70 Black and Indigenous people over a period of about 150 years. The committee, chaired by Radcliffe Institute Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin, also found that Harvard leaders and scholars provided justifications for racism with debunked “race science” and eugenics.
Today, many Harvard buildings, dormitories, and professorships are still named after people who owned slaves, profited off slavery, or promoted racist ideas.
In May, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay outlined the process FAS would take to consider requests for removing controversial names from University buildings, which she said is the first of many initiatives the school has planned in response to the Legacy of Slavery report.
While Gay, now University president-elect, and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana have lauded the importance of the report, some Harvard affiliates and advocates have raised concerns over what they see as “vague” recommendations outlined in the report. Still, many are hopeful that the report will lead to meaningful reparations.
In November, the University announced Harvard School of Public Health professor Sara N. Bleich will oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations.
—Madeleine A. Hung, Crimson Staff Writer
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard in October following eight years of litigation and two lower-court rulings in favor of the University.
SFFA — led by Edward J. Blum, who has a history of protesting affirmative action policies — first sued Harvard in 2014. The initial suit alleges Harvard’s race-conscious admissions processes violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating based on “race, color, or national origin.” The group also alleges Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear both cases in January.
SFFA filed a similar lawsuit against the University of North Carolina on the same day it sued Harvard. The Supreme Court heard the cases separately, which will allow newly seated Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92 — who recused herself from the Harvard case — to rule on the UNC case.
Harvard undergraduates flocked to Washington and organized on campus for protests in favor of affirmative action. Outside the court, the line for the public audience began two days before the hearing, stretching around the block.
In a marathon session, conservative justices seemed inclined to overturn the court’s decades of precedent upholding race-conscious admissions. The justices grilled lawyers on a slate of topics including the importance of diversity, alternatives to race-conscious admissions programs, and legacy and donor preferences.
A decision, long believed to go in favor of SFFA, is expected in the spring or summer of 2023.
—Rahem D. Hamid, Crimson Staff Writer
Two years ago, an eight-month investigation by The Crimson uncovered allegations of sexual harassment against three faculty in Harvard’s Anthropology Department — Theodore C. Bestor, Gary Urton, and John L. Comaroff.
This year, Comaroff, the only professor remaining of the three, has been at the center of a firestorm in the aftermath of those allegations.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and University President-elect Claudine Gay placed Comaroff on paid administrative leave in August 2020. He was subsequently placed him on a semester of unpaid administrative leave in January 2022, after Harvard investigations concluded that he violated the University’s sexual harassment and professional conduct policies.
In February, 38 Harvard faculty members signed an open letter questioning the outcome of the investigations.
A few days later, three Anthropology graduate students filed a federal lawsuit against the University for allegedly ignoring years of sexual harassment by Comaroff. Within two days, almost all of the professors who signed the open letter retracted their support for the message.
Later that month, more than three-quarters of Harvard’s tenured Anthropology faculty asked Comaroff to resign over the allegations.
Comaroff faced new accusations of harassment in June after the three graduate student plaintiffs submitted an amended lawsuit alleging more instances of unwanted sexual behavior when he taught at the University of Chicago.
This fall, Comaroff returned to teaching after two years on leave, sparking national outrage, including a walkout and renewed calls from Harvard’s graduate student union and alumni for reforms to the University’s Title IX process.
—Sophia C. Scott, Crimson Staff Writer
A leaked University draft report obtained by The Crimson in May revealed that Harvard’s museum collections hold the remains of at least 19 likely enslaved individuals and almost 7,000 Native Americans.
After the completion of the Harvard’s Steering Committee on Human Remains in Harvard Museum Collections’ final report in September, Harvard pledged to return the remains of 19 likely enslaved people to their descendants. Harvard’s Peabody Museum also pledged to return around seven hundred hair samples taken from Native American children at U.S. Indian Boarding Schools in the 1930s and housed in the museum’s collections.
The report also urged Harvard to swiftly return the human remains of Native Americans, as required by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act since 1990.
To implement the report’s recommendations, University President Lawrence S. Bacow created a new Human Remains Returns Committee and a Human Remains Research Review Committee.
After the release of the final report, multiple descendants of enslaved people and scholars continue to argue the University’s response falls short. Tamara K. Lanier, who filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2019, alleges the University illegally possesses photographs of who she says are her enslaved ancestors. Lanier criticized the sincerity of Harvard’s commitments, pointing out that they had yet to return the photographs to her.
—Yusuf S. Mian, Crimson Staff Writer
More than 60 percent of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted in May to replace shopping week with previous-term course registration, which requires students to enroll in courses at the end of the previous semester. The faculty vote ended the decades-old practice of allowing Harvard College students to sample classes without enrolling during the first week of the semester.
The new registration system will begin in November 2023 for Spring 2024 courses.
The vote came despite overwhelming undergraduate support for shopping week. In 2021, a petition to preserve shopping week obtained more than 1,300 signatures, and 96 percent of students voted in favor of an Undergraduate Council referendum to keep the scheduling practice. Ahead of the faculty vote on previous-term course registration, undergraduates also rallied in support of shopping week, arguing the system provides greater flexibility and exploration for students.
Still, teaching staff have raised concerns over the scheduling quirk, which they say causes job uncertainty due to fluctuating enrollment. Professors have also said shopping week makes it difficult to plan, research, and gather materials for courses.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh first proposed early registration in 2018 amid debates about the elimination of shopping week. In 2019, the FAS voted to keep shopping week until at least 2022.
—Michelle N. Amponsah, Crimson Staff Writer
In March, Harvard undergraduates voted overwhelmingly in favor of dissolving the Undergraduate Council — the College’s 40-year-old student government structure — and replacing it with a new system altogether.
Almost 4,000 undergrads voted in the final constitutional referendum, with more than 75 percent opting to scrap the UC, ending the long-lived Council.
The vote capped off months of advocacy by the Council’s own leaders, then-UC President Michael Y. Cheng ’22 and Vice President Emmett E. de Kanter ’24, who campaigned on a promise to “defund” the very body they sought to lead.
Cheng and de Kanter argued the UC was inefficient beyond repair via “small reforms” and should be dismantled and replaced by a new body, which they named the Harvard Undergraduate Association.
The electoral victory signaled mounting frustration with the UC, which for years had seen low rates of student engagement and approval, and whose final months featured accusations of tax fraud, contentious meetings, constitutional maneuvering, and an act of hate targeting Cheng.
In May, LyLena D. Estabine ’24 and Travis Allen Johnson ’24 — both former UC representatives — were elected to serve as the first co-presidents of the HUA. They vowed to usher in a more collaborative, efficient, and transparent era of student government at Harvard. But with the HUA facing what the pair described as “growing pains” in its first semester, only time will tell if their goals will prove successful.
—J. Sellers Hill, Crimson Staff Writer
In December, a federal jury found ex-Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand and Harvard parent Jie “Jack” Zhao not guilty of carrying out a bribery scheme to secure admission for Zhao’s sons.
Brand and Zhao were arrested and indicted by a grand jury in 2020 after prosecutors accused Brand of accepting more than $1.5 million in bribes to recruit Eric Y. Zhao ’18 and Edward Y. Zhao ’21 as fencers to the College.
As part of the alleged scheme, Zhao bought Brand’s home for nearly twice its assessed value, paid for his son’s college tuition, and covered the cost of a new sports car. Harvard fired Brand in 2019 after an internal investigation launched by Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay found that he violated conflict of interest policies.
In the December trial, defense attorneys convinced a jury that Zhao’s sons earned admission on their own merits and the alleged bribes to Brand were personal loans that he intended to pay back with anticipated inheritance money.
Prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of self-described middleman Alexandre Ryjik, who coached Zhao’s sons and said he helped transfer bribes from Zhao to Brand.
But the defense was able to cast doubt on Ryjik’s testimony, portraying him as “a liar and a criminal” who told prosecutors the story they wanted to hear in exchange for immunity from his own legal troubles.
After six hours of deliberation, jurors acquitted Brand and Zhao of all charges, concluding a trial that stretched more than two weeks.
—Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer
Rodrigo Ventocilla Ventosilla, a 32-year-old Harvard Kennedy School student from Peru, died on Aug. 11 while in police custody at a hospital in Indonesia, prompting allegations that he was mistreated and discriminated against by police.
Ventocilla, a transgender man and trans rights activist, died five days after he and his spouse Sebastián Marallano were detained for alleged drug possession upon their arrival at Bali’s main airport. Marallano was also hospitalized, but recovered and returned home to Peru.
Ventocilla’s family wrote in an August statement that Ventocilla was arrested in an “act of racial discrimination and transphobia” and subjected to police violence.
The Peruvian Foreign Ministry initially rejected allegations that it neglected its duties to Ventocilla and Marallano, backing up the Indonesian police’s account of the arrest in an Aug. 24 statement. But days later, in a sharp reversal, the Peruvian Foreign Ministry called for an official report from Indonesian authorities on the circumstances of Ventocilla’s death.
Ventocilla’s mother said in an interview that Ventocilla and Marallano suffered “physical and psychological violence” at the hands of authorities and the family had “evidence of torture.”
Harvard affiliates, including HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf, mourned Ventocilla’s death and supported demands for an investigation. Activists rallied in a September protest in Boston, and weeks later, a Harvard Institute of Politics forum on global trans rights honored Ventocilla.
Questions remain surrounding Ventocilla’s death. An autopsy on Ventocilla’s body could not determine how he died due to his body’s condition, leaving Peruvian prosecutors probing for answers.
—Miles J. Herszenhorn, Crimson Staff Writer
More than a dozen Leverett House affiliates alleged the house’s former leaders created a toxic environment marked by mismanagement, disruptions to house culture, and unusual staff turnover, a Crimson investigation reported in September.
Brian D. Farrell and Irina P. Ferreras, who began as Leverett’s faculty deans in 2018, stepped down from their positions in June — a year before the last of their five-year term. Neither a spokesperson nor the ex-deans provided a reason for the sudden departure, which came months into the investigation into the deans’ leadership.
Since 2019, Leverett affiliates have raised concerns about a loss of traditions and the closure of common spaces in the house. According to a 2019 Crimson survey, just 27 percent of Leverett graduating seniors said they trusted Farrell and Ferreras — a lower percentage than that of any other house.
After the resignation, Harvard Medical School professors Eileen E. Reynolds ’86 and Daniel G. Deschler began as Leverett’s interim faculty deans. Following positive feedback from house affiliates, Reynolds and Deschler were appointed to a permanent term in December.
The allegations in Leverett come after a 2019 Crimson investigation reported claims that Winthrop House’s faculty deans created a toxic environment stretching back years. With the second house controversy in three years, some affiliates are voicing renewed concerns about the efficacy of Harvard’s house system.
While Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana declined to comment on the Leverett deans’ departure, he has continued to uphold the importance of the College’s residential system.
—Marina Qu, Crimson Staff Writer