Harvard Medical School Says Anti-Racism Is Top Priority

Harvard Medical School faculty dean George Daley

Harvard Medical School announced that one of its main priorities for the coming year is fostering a commitment to "anti-racism."

At a virtual town hall in September, faculty dean George Daley and other administrators affirmed the department's commitment to "becom[ing] an institution that is committed to anti-racism," and detailed a new plan for recruiting minority professors.The proposal, known as "cluster hiring," would have the school hire professors in groups based on shared research interests, rather than considering each professor's individual merits. The school has also created a task force to review admissions practices, faculty development, and academic curricula through an "anti-racist lens."

"We've laid out a new strategy for faculty recruitment that is going to advance our commitments to diversity," Daley said. [Administrators] "brought forth a proposal for a cluster hire, seeking four outstanding scientists who will be committed to our mission and our values."

Campuses across the United States have made similar promises, including Dartmouth University and the University of South Florida. Anti-racism has found its way into K-12 schools as well. Maryland's Montgomery County Public Schools district requested a "systemwide anti-racist audit" to determine whether it's adequately helping students "resist systems of oppression," and the elite Brearley School now asks parents to outline their commitment to anti-racism in its application process.

Harvard administrators also claimed that faculty are "anxious" to learn about anti-racism, despite coming from "privileged identities." "People over the years have been interested in diversity, inclusion, disparities, and unconscious bias," an administrator said. "This is really organized around something much more specific, which is this anti-racist agenda."

Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and Yale Medical School lecturer, said Harvard's prioritization of anti-racism was at odds with its mission of creating first-rate doctors. "What does it mean to an anti-racist medical school?" Satel asked. "The mission is to expand access to under-served individuals and treat all patients."