A message from Dean Bridget Long regarding HGSE’s journey in addressing racial justice and building a more inclusive community
June 16, 2020
I write to follow up on my message on the search for hope in turbulent times to speak more about HGSE’s journey in addressing racial injustice and discrimination, and more broadly, our work to become a more diverse and inclusive community that welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds.
The last few weeks have been momentous indeed. I am heartened by the fact that Black Lives Matter has grown from being a rallying cry for a small part of the population to prompting widespread introspection, discussion, and support. And I am thankful to see that peaceful protests have engaged a cross-section of Americans and prompted activism around the world. Even if you aren’t familiar with the U.S. context underlying the recent nationwide protests and demands for reform, countries around the world are facing the historic and present-day discrimination that has taken many forms — some that vary from the American experience and others that are all too familiar. There is so much more to do, but there are bright spots that inspire our optimism. Importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court decision yesterday to affirm the civil rights of gay and transgender workers is cause for celebration.
At HGSE, there have been many efforts and people over the years that have helped our community to grow stronger and to promote equity and opportunity more meaningfully. I am proud our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, across multiple dimensions, is a constant part of what do and how we approach our plans for the future. Especially in this moment, when it has become clearer than ever that so many have experienced exclusion, marginalization, and injustice simply because of the color of their skin or some other part of their identity, it is worth reaffirming our community’s values:
- First, we are an institution that believes in the importance of education for all. We believe in the worth of each person regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, political views, immigration status, ability, socioeconomic status, and other identities or characteristics. While we encourage research and debate on how best to accomplish the goal of educating all students, we are committed to this work regardless of identity or background.
- Second, we see diversity as a strength, and we understand diversity must be joined with equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging for all members of our community. When those with differing perspectives are supported to engage in rigorous and shared inquiry, the results lead to excellence and innovation. As educators — and more generally, as citizens of the world — we will meet, work with, and serve a vast array of people who may hold very different views and opinions from ours. Including a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives at HGSE is essential to our ability to engage in meaningful teaching and practice, conduct relevant and pioneering research, and have a positive impact on the larger field.
Living up to these community values takes deliberate work and attention, and it is a journey that is ongoing. Over the past several years, our institution has taken tremendous steps forward in multiple ways. To name just a few examples: we have increased the diversity of our faculty and are now the most diverse faculty at Harvard University and in comparison to most peer institutions; we began the Equity and Inclusion Fellows Program for students, which works to foster intergroup dialog and drive diversity initiatives at HGSE and in the broader community; we created the Double Take storytelling event to help us better understand one another; and just last year our faculty unanimously ratified a statement on the Importance of Racial Diversity. Staff have participated in workshops, trainings, and brown bag lunches; meanwhile, faculty have participated in trainings and an inclusive teaching seminar series. We now offer a far broader array of courses that focus on equity and opportunity, and our Diversity Innovation Fund supports student-initiated ideas that broaden the conversation at HGSE and allow for more varied perspectives, experiences, and forums for exchange.
To be sure, change has not happened overnight, and we must rededicate ourselves to this ongoing work in order to keep making progress. There are exciting opportunities ahead, and I hope they will resonate with you and inspire you to become an active participant. First, our Dean’s Advisory Committee for Equity and Diversity (DACED), made up of faculty, staff, and students, is continuing its incredible work to help implement our recently-updated diversity competencies. Building from competencies affirmed by the HGSE faculty and administration many years ago, the new competencies detail our goals for what all students should know and master by the end of their time at HGSE, from reflective self-work to interpersonal and group dialogue, as well as the ability to identify and analyze systems of power and threats to equity. Students will grow these competencies through their coursework, co-curricular opportunities, and student-led affinity groups, and there are broader conversations about the responsibilities of faculty and staff to also master these skills. Second, we are planning to offer a set of new courses, tentatively called “Special Topics in Equity and Opportunity.” These will give students a chance to focus in on particular aspects of diversity and inclusion, and they will provide another way for students to expand their learning and skills. Stay tuned for more information about these courses this upcoming year. Additionally, this year, we look forward to engaging with and learning from a more diverse set of voices from the field in our courses and community events. We will hear from global leaders in education, from practicing educators in urban and rural districts, and from those working with different populations of learners. Using remote technologies allows us to include a wider range of voices so that we can immerse ourselves in the perspectives and realities of people living in very different contexts.
Let us take this moment to commit to change, which involves all of us — it has to be in order to get to a place where we live fully as equals. My hope is that our work will not only strengthen the HGSE community but also contribute to improving the lives of the millions of learners we serve and support.
Bridget Long, Ph.D.
Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Saris Professor of Education and Economics