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Campus & Community

Faculty of Arts and Sciences unveils anti-racism agenda

4 min read

Gay restarts cluster hire, announces new dean of diversity and task forces

Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Claudine Gay announced Thursday a robust anti-racism agenda in a message to faculty, students, and staff, prioritizing six areas of action.

Calling on the FAS community to be “relentless, constructively critical, and action-oriented,” Gay said that she would: restart the search for four new senior faculty in ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration (EIM); establish a new visiting professorship in EIM; appoint an inaugural associate dean of diversity, inclusion and belonging; expand the Inequality in American postdoctoral fellows program; initiate a study of racial diversity among senior staff; and create a task force to examine the FAS visual culture.

“The calls for racial justice heard on our streets also echo on our campus, as we reckon with our individual and institutional shortcomings and with our faculty’s shared responsibility to bring truth to bear on the pernicious effects of structural inequality,” she said. “I am clear-eyed that the work of real change will be difficult, and for many it will be uncomfortable. Change is messy work. Institutional inertia will threaten to overwhelm even our best efforts. If we are to succeed, we must challenge a status quo that is comfortable and convenient for many.”

Reactivating the search for EIM faculty, which had been paused after the campus was forced to close in March due to COVID-19, will begin immediately. Gay will also strengthen Asian American, Latinx, and related fields of study with a new Harvard College Visiting Professorship in EIM. In the 2021‒22 academic year, FAS will appoint one or two new visiting EIM scholars to teach in the College.

Gay’s anti-racism agenda calls for an expansion of the Inequality in America program. Launched in 2017 when Gay was dean of social science, the program, which currently recruits two new fellows each year, will expand in the coming year to welcome two additional scholars in areas of race and ethnic inequality.

“To become the inclusive scholarly community we aspire to be, we must confront our dual legacies with honesty, humility, and resolve.”

Claudine Gay

Gay will also hire the first FAS associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB). The new associate dean will serve as part of Gay’s senior leadership team, developing concrete goals and identifying personal, departmental, divisional, and School-level actions in FAS. The role is expected to be filled by the start of the fall semester.

Among the first responsibilities for the new associate dean of DIB will be leading a study of hiring, development, and promotion practices, with particular focus on increasing racial diversity, among senior staff.

“The benefits of diverse teams for organizational performance are well-documented, from spurring innovation and creative problem-solving to challenging the assumptions and conventional wisdom that limit our thinking,” said Gay.

Finally, Gay outlined the charge for her new Task Force for Visual Culture and Signage. Led by Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey, the group will be comprised of faculty, students, and staff, and will pursue a comprehensive study of FAS’s visual culture and articulate guidelines for evolving imagery across campus.

“To become the inclusive scholarly community we aspire to be, we must confront our dual legacies with honesty, humility, and resolve,” she said. “Our visual culture should reflect our deep, abiding commitments to advance knowledge and critical thinking, honoring our past in a truthful way, while also celebrating the diversity and vitality of our present and instilling a sense of pride and belonging that is equally available to all members of our community.”

Gay recognized that work to combat racism is already underway in departments, centers, and programs across FAS, and voiced her support for those efforts. “Collectively, we are the authors of Harvard’s future. As we begin this historic year, I offer you my personal commitment to be a partner and ally in the work for equity and justice,” she said.