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Our Work Together

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

We have been through an extraordinarily painful and disorienting time for Harvard. Since I first arrived here as an undergraduate in 1973, I cannot recall a period of comparable tension on our campus and across our community. That tension has been exacerbated by concerns about how we address and combat antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias; safeguard free expression; and foster a climate of mutual understanding. We have been subjected to an unrelenting focus on fault lines that divide us, which has tested the ties that bind us as a community devoted to learning from one another.

President Gay’s resignation last week has added a deep sense of loss. Claudine and I have worked together closely these past eight years. I have come to know and admire her leadership through her service as a divisional dean, dean, and president, and, along with countless others, I had great hopes for her presidency. I share her unshakable confidence in our community and in what we can accomplish when we commit ourselves, above all, to pursuing excellence.

As this new year begins, I hope that we will all reflect upon the qualities that make this institution so remarkable: our commitment to attracting and supporting faculty, students, and staff of outstanding talent and promise; our determination to lead in educating students and advancing knowledge across an extraordinary array of scholarly disciplines and professional domains; and our aspirations to generate ideas and innovations that can serve the wider society and change the world for the better. It’s crucial that we bridge the fissures that have weakened our sense of community and, through our words and deeds, affirm the immense worth of what we do here, notwithstanding our shortcomings. Doing so will not be easy, especially in the face of persistent scrutiny, but we must rise to the challenge. It will take a willingness to approach each other in a spirit of goodwill, with an eagerness to listen as well as to speak, and with an appreciation of our common humanity when we encounter passionately held but opposing convictions.

Whatever our individual views on contested issues, whatever our varied experiences and backgrounds, whatever part of Harvard we inhabit, we share an enormous stake in the learning undertaken here, in the ideas nurtured here, and in the discoveries shaped here that improve lives far beyond our campus. Seeking ways to learn from our differences has never mattered more. Rededicating ourselves to free inquiry and expression, in a climate of inclusion and a spirit of mutual respect, has never mattered more. Upholding a paramount commitment to academic excellence has never mattered more. Pursuing the truth has never mattered more.

Our task is difficult yet essential, and we have much work ahead of us. Although I regret the circumstances that have me writing to you as your interim president, please know that I will serve with a dedication to the Harvard I know and cherish: a university with a boundless ambition to advance knowledge and with the humility to learn from its shortcomings as well as its successes. I’m grateful for your help in our efforts and wish all of you the best for the year ahead.


Alan M. Garber