Harvard Releases Report on Inclusion and Belonging

Advises Harvard update campus 'symbols' to 'convey openness, accessibility'

Harvard Union / Wikimedia Commons

The first draft of a report from Harvard University's Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging includes recommendations of 14 "shared standards for inclusive excellence" to be implemented university-wide.

The nine-page initial report released Monday advises, among other things, that the university create a "culture of mutual hospitality and engagement across difference" and "responsive curricula" that can "appropriately serve the diverse array of intellectual interests brought to the table by members of the campus community."

The task force asks for "intentionality" in efforts to diversify the staff, faculty, and the student body. In the pursuit of a value termed "inclusive excellence," the university is told to shift toward "avoiding over-reliance on indicators of excellence that systematically favor historically dominant groups."

The 46-person task force also recommends the creation of either or both a center of Inclusion and Belonging, or of Identity, Politics, and Culture.

The report advises that Harvard update its campus "symbols" to "convey the openness and accessibility to all of our campus and of an academic life" and "shift the emphasis to the present and future while continuing to respect our distinguished past."

The university and each individual college are advised to adopt the fourteen standards "as a core management tool" over a five-year period, with a central senior administrator and "organizational unit" focused on ensuring that the diversity protocols be implemented.

Under the new standards, the university would publish a biennial assessment of the campus's progress on these measures with the help of information gathered from a mandatory "Inclusion and Belonging Module" to be included on staff, faculty, and student climate surveys.

In an appendix, the task force explains that "belonging" means minorities find "rewarding participation" in university activities, which the report recognizes may be "challenging."

A lack of "belonging" may look like "women … included in a decision-making committee but find that they are not given opportunities to speak" or African American business school students finding "only very rarely" that the case studies they are assigned include African Americans.

The task force would also like to revise Harvard's statement of values with a heavy focus on affirmations of diversity and inclusion. Instead of upholding "conscientious pursuit of excellence in one's work," the task force insists on a devotion to "inclusive excellence." Similarly, the students are to be educated not only for lives of leadership, but "inclusive leadership in a diverse world."

Danielle Allen, a government professor and co-chair of the task force, said issues raised in a list of questions would be addressed in the final report "in detail."

"The work is ongoing as the campus community needs to have its discussions," she added.

Further inquiries have been made to the task force. This article will be updated with their responses.

This is the first draft of the final report to be submitted by the task force, convened this time last year by University President Drew Faust.

Faust, to whom the draft report is addressed, is set to depart her post at the end of this academic year.

Update 9:25 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Danielle Allen.