March 6, 2015
Dear Harvard College Students,
Last night, I received an image of an invitation for a party hosted by an all-male unrecognized student group. The invitation included a link to an accompanying video, which has since been deactivated. The invitation and the video are offensive, crude, and sexist.
I am troubled by the lack of judgment shown in organizing and promoting this event, which runs counter to the values we hold as a community. I am especially concerned about this in light of all the attention that has been given to issues of inclusion, gender equity, and personal integrity at Harvard and elsewhere. And I am concerned as a member of the Harvard community because sexism and bigotry are antithetical to our fundamental values as an institution.
To honor this great institution that has been entrusted to us and from which we derive so much benefit, we must work together to build a community of which we can be proud to be a part. This will not be easy. No one can do it alone. Yet I know that by working together, we can create the type of culture that will best reflect this institution.
As a student and teacher, I have witnessed the transformative power that stepping up and speaking out can have on a culture. Too often, we confuse “leadership” with holding a title, but acting as a leader means upholding our values and speaking up when those values are not in evidence. It means doing what you truly believe is right, even when you feel afraid or nervous that acting on your principles might lead to adverse personal, social, or career consequences. And so I am asking each of you to step up to this challenge.
I believe in each of you and this is why I am calling on you to reflect and talk with each other about how we can create the type of culture that reflects our values. You all have a stake in these issues, and I hope you will join the conversation—with your peers, with your organizations, and with me. Send your thoughts to [email protected] and/or share them via Twitter using #crimsonrespect. We will use these suggestions to inform our discussions at the College and will share our learnings with student and House leaders.