As the academic year gets underway, the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging is entering its final phase of work, and will continue to look to the Harvard community for suggesting solutions and vetting preliminary recommendations to help the campus achieve its goals for inclusion and belonging.
“As we near the end of our work, we want to hear from all campus community members — students, staff, and academic personnel — with their ideas for how we can cultivate a Harvard that supports the flourishing of all of us,” said University Professor Danielle Allen, who is co-chairing the task force along with Harvard Kennedy School Academic Dean Archon Fung and Vice President for Campus Services Meredith Weenick.
The task force will be meeting at an all-day retreat to prepare a draft report with preliminary recommendations that will be shared with the campus community in October. In the meantime, the task force is continuing to collect ideas via its Solution Space, a forum for open discussion. Users can log into the site with their HarvardKey to share thoughts and suggestions directly with University leadership and the Harvard community at large. The deadline to submit ideas is Sept. 30. Community feedback will also be sought through outreach meetings throughout the fall.
“Through the Solution Space, we hope to crowdsource ideas and draw on the collective wisdom of the Harvard community,” Fung said. “We already have received many great ideas and insights, and we hope to see more in the coming weeks.”
Harvard President Drew Faust convened the University-wide task force a year ago to identify ways to help the University thrive as a place where all members of its increasingly diverse community feel that they truly belong. With Faust stepping down at the end of this academic year, the task force has accelerated its work in an effort to give her time to consider its recommendations. The group expects to present its full report by the start of the spring semester.
“President Faust has sought to improve inclusion and belonging since the beginning of her term,” Weenick said. “We wanted to give her ample time to consider the task force’s recommendations, and set in motion the next phase of this work.”
Much of the last academic year was spent examining inclusion and belonging through a variety of lenses, including: the demographic realities at Harvard and how to improve diversity; the experience of life on campus, Harvard’s common culture, and how it might change to promote full belonging for all community members; academic and intellectual resources already devoted to the issue that could offer insight; and existing diversity programs, offices, and initiatives for practical guidance on what works and what doesn’t. Task force members also looked at existing data across campus and developed a research agenda.
The task force hosted a number of outreach workshops with students, staff, and academic personnel across the University. It also met with leadership teams at each School and business unit to understand existing efforts and challenges. In April, the group hosted an Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging during which community members gathered in Sanders Theatre and the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center in the Longwood Medical Area to explore the dimensions of diversity, the challenges to achieving a sense of community for all, and how those challenges affect work, learning, and research. Since then, the task force has been considering potential solutions and recommendations.
This fall, the group will enter the final vetting period, when meeting with campus community members will help inform the group’s final report. The draft report with preliminary recommendations will be posted on the task force website for comment as well as a list of opportunities to share feedback in outreach meetings with task force members.