Dear Harvard College Students,
I hope that by now, many of you have taken the opportunity to read President Bacow’s community letter regarding the Final Report of the Harvard University Review Committee. I have read the report and I’d like to share with you my own reaction to it.
You have often heard me celebrate Harvard College’s commitment to creating a diverse, safe, and inclusive environment. After reading the Feedback from the Community section of the Final Report, it is clear to me that Harvard College has work to do in order to become the caring and responsible community that we aspire to be. We must and will do more to acknowledge and address student concerns about how our essential health and safety systems respond to the needs of our diverse student body. Moreover, we must do more to acknowledge and understand the daily struggles that exist under the surface of our diverse community. Our community will only be what we aspire to be when every single student trusts that our community cares about their fundamental sense of safety and well-being.
The Report underscores Harvard’s foundational principle “to expand opportunity and create a diverse community that enhances the learning of every student.” As the report states, “Harvard should be proactive, innovative, and resourceful in its efforts to create the conditions that allow the members of our community to reach their highest potential.” Harvard College strives to create an environment in which all students are free to pursue their work under the safest and most equitable conditions. But this environment can only become a reality if all of us—students, faculty, and staff—work together to create the responsible, respectful community that Harvard seeks to foster.
The Report offers specific recommendations for the College regarding large scale on-campus events, the College’s Amnesty Policy, multi-cultural competency training, and incident management procedures. President Bacow has asked the College to provide concrete plans by the beginning of the next semester for implementing these recommendations. In response, I have asked the Dean of Students Office (DSO) to work with our University partners, including Harvard University Police Department and Harvard University Health Services (HUHS), to review and respond to the Report’s recommendations. In the coming months, we will communicate the next steps we will take to address the recommendations.
In the meantime, I would like to share with you that the DSO is already engaged in multi-cultural competency training, and we will continue to focus on developing these initiatives. As part of DSO’s required spring and fall tutor trainings in 2018, Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker conducted sessions on creating inclusive communities and on mental health stressors for marginalized communities. The DSO also held a presentation and discussion this month with resident deans and administrative board members on how to help students reclaim cognitive resources lost to poverty, racism, and social marginalization.
The College has also been working with Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and HUHS to refine and streamline protocols for response for mental and physical health and has a care team in place for student cases. This year, DSO created a new full-time Senior Resident Dean position within the DSO to help respond to student cases, coordinate support, and create a more formal system for case management.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a word about the use of drugs and alcohol in our community. Current data – as well as some of the evidence presented in the report about Yardfest – indicates an increased use of drugs and alcohol in our community, as well as an increase in related dangerous behaviors. While we are a community in which individual responsibility matters, we also have a collective responsibility to provide support and resources for students in times of need. If you are having issues with drug and alcohol use and need help, please contact the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services (AODS) at 617-496-0133.
I am grateful to our students, student leaders, and the members of the Review Committee who have thoughtfully assembled these recommendations to create a safer and more inclusive campus. As we work to implement the Committee’s recommendations, I want to remind you that while the College will do everything possible to create a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment for our students, the strength of this community also depends on each of you to be responsible to yourself and to others. We must undertake this essential work together.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College