Dear Members of the Harvard Community,
On April 16, I wrote to the community about the troubling events culminating in the arrest of a Harvard student by the Cambridge Police Department. Since then, University officials have engaged in an extensive series of conversations with members of the community. Through open and frank dialogue, we have heard expressions of grave concern and of pain. We have heard genuine uncertainty about whether the healthy, safe, and supportive environment essential to an effective education is equally available to every member of the community. And we have heard a desire to understand the circumstances that led up to the incident, to delineate the roles and responsibilities of Harvard offices, and, as I noted in my letter to the community, to “determine what Harvard, as an institution, can learn from [it].”
The University takes these concerns—and the distress expressed by so many members of the Harvard community—seriously. As our work on belonging and inclusion has sought to underscore and to advance, Harvard’s excellence is rooted in creating the opportunity for all members of this community to realize their highest potential. If our faculty, students, and staff do not feel safe and supported, if they do not feel that the institution is committed to creating the conditions where they can succeed, then we must do better and we must act. It is clear, in light of the recent incident and the ensuing conversations, that there is work for us to do.
To that end, I have asked Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, to chair a review committee. Other members of the committee include:
- Roberto Gonzales, Professor of Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Sean Kelly, Teresa G. and Ferdinand F. Martignetti Professor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Faculty Dean of Dunster House of Harvard College
- Herman “Dutch” Leonard, George F. Baker, Jr. Professor of Public Management at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School
- Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, Director of the College Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital and Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
- Jasmine Waddell, Resident Dean of Freshmen for Elm Yard and Assistant Dean of Harvard College
- Sarah Wald, Senior Policy Advisor and Chief of Staff at Harvard Kennedy School
The committee will start by determining the sequence of events leading to the student’s arrest. It will seek to gain an understanding of how the College, HUHS, and HUPD responded to (and were able to respond to) events such as those that occurred in this instance. That understanding, in turn, will inform a more systematic examination of opportunities for improvement across a range of institutional activities. This work must start with a focus on how the changing nature of our student body should influence the ways in which we address issues of College policy, mental health resources, and community policing.
The first stage of the review committee’s work will entail hearing from members of the community and learning how other institutions address related issues. I have asked the chair to ensure broad levels of student engagement, while recognizing the importance of the confidentiality of student records. In the coming days, I expect that the committee will have more to say about its plans for community engagement. In the meantime, I encourage you to share your perspective with the committee at the following email address: [email protected].
As I emphasized in my letter of April 16, this work must proceed with a special urgency. In consultation with President-elect Bacow, I have asked the committee to work intensively during the remaining weeks of the semester, to complete its work over the summer, and to make findings and initial recommendations in time for action before the start of fall semester.
I am grateful to the members of the committee for undertaking this important examination. By casting a critical eye to our own actions, we seek to ensure that all of what Harvard does, administrative and academic, is aligned in service of the institution’s commitment to creating an environment where every member fully belongs. As I have said in other settings, fostering a supportive community is everyone’s work. So please join the committee in helping to advance this commitment, which rests at the heart of all that we do.