John Harvard's Journal
In Prospect, for Spring
As this issue went to press, Harvard Business School proposed to continue with limited residential and hybrid instruction—but perhaps chastened, after an uptick in COVID-19 cases in November forced it to turn to all-remote learning to finish the fall semester; the Medical School is bringing first-year M.D. students back to campus; and the Harvard Kennedy School hoped to create programs that could accommodate international students kept away from Cambridge because of U.S. regulations on enrollment in all-online instruction.
The College announced on December 1 that during the spring term, it would accommodate up to 3,100 undergraduates, using all House and Yard spaces to provide single bedrooms for all seniors who wished to be in residence; juniors who were enrolled in and completed the fall semester; and others who were granted permission to be on campus during that term because they did not have adequate learning environments available elsewhere. (About 23 percent of students were resident in the fall semester; if 3,100 students come to Cambridge for the spring term, that would be about 47 percent.) Undergraduates who live in time zones four or more hours away from Eastern Standard Time will also be given priority. Finally, juniors who were not enrolled or did not complete the fall term can apply and will be accommodated to the extent possible. Instruction will remain remote, but as public-health conditions permit, Harvard will phase in access to libraries and laboratories, which juniors need to pursue independent research and seniors need for their capstone projects. Read full details at harvardmag.com/college-springplan-20.
The academic calendar will run as planned, with classes from January 25 through April 28, but the scheduled spring recess week has been canceled (to minimize risky travel), with those days reallocated to provide biweekly breaks from remote learning and teaching (see harvardmag.com/covid-gsas-fas-shifts-20).
All of the academic decisions about education in residence, of course, could be rendered academic—in view of the University’s assessment of public-health risks, and decisions of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—given the intensifying coronavirus pandemic.
Turning to staff and finances, on November 12, executive vice president Katie Lapp advised the community that faculty and staff members whose presence on campus is not required should continue to work remotely for the rest of the academic year, through June 30, 2021. She also announced that Harvard’s policy of paying full salaries and benefits to staff members who had been idled by the pandemic would be modified as of January 15—reducing wages to 70 percent of regular pay for employees, and ending compensation to contracted workers. For details, see harvardmag.com/covid-remotestaff-to-june-20.
Finally, the spring reunion schedule has been altered. In October, Harvard Alumni Association executive director Philip Lovejoy announced that if the HAA’s annual meeting and reunions can take place in person (a decision expected in late winter; both had to be canceled last May), they will be hosted “at a time when students are not on campus” to assure adequate de-densification and social distancing. Thus, any in-person Commencement would be separated from the alumni association meeting and reunions.
The “important and enduring traditions of College Reunions and the Annual Meeting are deeply interconnected,” Lovejoy stated. “Therefore, in either an in-person or virtual scenario, these programs would still take place together—and both would be moved to the first week of June if held in person.” Although the timing could change, he continued, “[W]e would still plan to preserve…the alumni processions, celebrating reunion classes, recognizing the Harvard Medalists, and hearing from the Harvard and HAA presidents.” If they cannot be safely held in person, both will be hosted virtually.
Yale renamed its Calhoun College (an undergraduate House) in 2017, ending its association with the champion of slavery, and Princeton in 2020 removed Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public-policy school and a dormitory, severing the connection to a racist who had been president of both the university and the United States. Inevitably, renaming questions have arisen at Harvard, too. Witness the Law School’s decision to abandon its shield, associated with the slaveholding family that endowed its first professorship, and nascent discussions about the appropriateness of naming a House after University president Abbott Lawrence Lowell, who instituted a Jewish quota, purged gay students, and held racist and xenophobic views.
Given these issues, President Lawrence S. Bacow has created a Committee to Articulate Principles on Renaming. It will, according to the announcement, “help guide consideration of questions about renaming campus buildings, spaces, programs, professorships, and other objects in view of their association with historical figures whose advocacy or support of activities would today be found abhorrent by members of the Harvard community.” Those associations presumably could include both public figures and donors.
President emerita Drew Gilpin Faust, an historian of the South and the Civil War, chairs the effort. Among the 15 other members are distinguished faculty historians and other Harvard professors, alumni, staff members, and students. The committee will report to the president at an unspecified date. For a detailed report on its brief and composition, and the kinds of issues that have arisen on campus, see harvardmag.com/renaming-committee-20.
In another, comprehensive response to racial inequity, Harvard Business School (HBS) in September unveiled its Action Plan for Racial Equity, the product of a high-level, 25-member task force that ultimately involved three times that many faculty members and leaders.
Its seven-step program to improve racial equity on campus and in the business world at large begins with a statement unequivocally rejecting racism in all forms (particularly anti-black racism) and proceeds to structural measures such as appointing a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer (like those recently appointed by the University and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, FAS) and funding an initiative to support research, course development, convening, and outreach on race in business and the economy. Other commitments extend to increasing the diversity of the faculty, student body, and staff; supporting development of course material that advances racial equity in business; training professors to lead sensitive discussions of race among students; engaging with businesses (from HBS’s suppliers to companies recruiting HBS graduates); and, finally, assigning responsibility for implementation, review, and measurement of progress, and public reporting on the results.
Dean Nitin Nohria said the school would commit $25 million for implementation during the next decade, and would seek further support from donors to sustain these efforts. New dean Srikant Datar (appointed October 9, effective January 1) put this work among his highest priorities (see page 23).
Symbolizing some of these priorities, HBS’s Glass House has been renamed Cash House, honoring Robison professor of business administration emeritus James E. Cash, who joined the faculty in 1976 and became its first black member to receive tenure, in 1985. Cash also chaired the M.B.A. program, led a review of the M.B.A. curriculum, and served as senior associate dean and chair of HBS Publishing, before retiring in 2003. Glass Hall honored Carter Glass, a former U.S. Treasury secretary—who also led efforts to assure that Virginia’s 1902 constitution stripped black citizens of their voting rights.
The plan is available at https://www.hbs.edu/racialequity/Pages/default.aspx.
Separately, the FAS, furthering its own racial-equity program (reported at harvardmag.com/racialjustice-steps-20), detailed the work of its task force on visual culture and signage. In her charge, Dean Claudine Gay wrote about “how we foster a more inclusive visual culture…connecting our past with the promise of our future. Our campus has been home to…a long history of pathbreaking accomplishment.…But that rich history is also beset by chapters of exclusion and discrimination that are in deep tension with the vibrant, diverse campus community we celebrate today and the truly inclusive scholarly community we aspire to be. How and where we memorialize individuals, events, and moments in our institutional history through imagery and symbols should reflect our core institutional commitments” while encouraging “the sense of welcome and belonging each of us needs to feel seen, heard, and be able to thrive.”
The task force of faculty and staff members and students, chaired by arts and humanities dean Robin Kelsey, will develop principles and guidelines for “how to evolve the visual culture and imagery” across FAS, while also surveying the current landscape and making recommendations for “immediate intervention.”