Letter to Harvard University Presidential Search Committee
September 8, 2017
William F. Lee
Senior Fellow, Harvard Corporation
Harvard University Presidential Search Committee
Dear Mr. Lee and Members of the Presidential Search Committee,
As the founders of the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, an organization established last year which now has more than 1,000 alumni and student supporters, we write to share our thoughts on the presidential search.
First, however, we wish to thank President Faust for her efforts to make Harvard a more diverse and inclusive community, including the expansion of financial aid and first generation initiatives during her tenure, the strengthening of procedures to prevent and address sexual assault, her concern about the impact of exclusive single-gender social organizations, her support for affirmative action, and her defense of undocumented students and DACA.
At a time when divisions in our nation are being virulently promoted based on race, ethnicity, immigrant background, religion, gender, and sexuality, we urge you to select a President who is fully committed to making Harvard “a community enriched, not embattled, by difference and diversity” and to playing a leading role in healing wounds and divisions in the world beyond Harvard, in President Faust’s words.
Given that Harvard’s selection of its President will have an immense impact and influence in international academia for years to come, we hope you will exhaustively seek to identify, recruit, and consider candidates from diverse backgrounds, including candidates of color, LGBTQ candidates, and candidates from other underrepresented groups. In addition, we urge you to consider each candidate’s experience working with underrepresented groups and leading multicultural institutions.
As you may know, the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard along with other alumni groups(1) has asked Harvard Overseer and Harvard Alumni Association Elected Director candidates to comment on:
• how important diversity should be at Harvard,
• what strategies the University should pursue to achieve diversity,
• their views on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions,
• what Harvard’s role should be in creating a more equitable, inclusive, and just society, and
• what steps the candidates have taken to bring diversity and inclusion to their workplaces or organizations they have been involved with.
Many Harvard alumni have weighed the candidates’ responses, published on the Coalition’s website, in casting their ballots. We urge you to ask each presidential candidate a similar set of questions during the application process.
We believe that it is imperative that the next president be fully committed to developing, hiring, and promoting faculty and administrators of color as well as to strengthening ethnic studies throughout the University. Over the past 45 years, Harvard students have submitted 12 different proposals for ethnic studies at Harvard. In the past year alone, more than 1,000 Harvard affiliates have signed a petition urging support for ethnic studies, but there is currently neither a concentration nor a department of ethnic studies at Harvard. Harvard should be at the forefront of teaching, learning, and research in an academic field that seeks to examine some of the most fundamental and pressing questions of our time, and all Harvard students should be exposed to the critical study of race and ethnicity as part of their general education as “citizens and citizen leaders for our society.”(2)
Only a full commitment by our next president will allow Harvard to bring its ethnic studies programs to the level of those of other universities, such as Yale, Brown, Stanford, and Columbia. Shockingly, even though students of color comprise a majority of the Class of 2021, and 21.6% of the Class is Asian American, not a single Asian American studies course is being offered at Harvard this semester.
We appreciate the opportunity to share these concerns with you. Please contact us if we can provide any assistance.
Very truly yours,
Jane Sujen Bock '81, Margaret M. Chin '84, Jeannie Park '83, Kristin R. Penner '89, & Michael Williams '81
The Coalition for a Diverse Harvard Steering Committee