Commencement is an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class, to commemorate the community they have built at Harvard, and to mark the launching of a new generation of global leaders. There is more to a Harvard education than what occurs in the classroom. Today we celebrate the leadership that the Class of 2014 has taken to build a fairer and just world – starting here at Harvard.
The Diversity Report
This May, a feeling of unease rests in many students of color due to the selections of Michael Bloomberg and Sheryl Sandberg as speakers during Harvard's 2014 commencement events. These speaker choices reveal that Harvard has yet to fully regard the presence of the racial, ethnic, and class diversity in its student body. This lack of regard can often be detrimental to the culture, policy and practices of the Harvard community. The Diversity Report is a coalition of Harvard undergraduates dedicated to ensuring that students of color have the equal opportunity to thrive academically and socially alongside their peers at Harvard. While we commend the administration’s impressive strides in increasing racial and ethnic diversity on campus, we recognize opportunities for improving the institutional support provided to students of color once they arrive at Harvard. Through our assignments and report card system, this coalition hopes to guide administrators in enhancing the institutional support for Harvard’s increasingly diverse student body. However, of the twenty-eight administrators we have contacted, only nine have responded to us. The nineteen administrators who have chosen to ignore the collected voice of this coalition reflect an inconsistency between the College's mission of "pursu[ing] excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation" and the more grim reality. When we have taken the time to highlight several hindrances that students of color currently face only to have administrators largely disregard us, we must question the depth of Harvard's dedication to "identify[ing] and remov[ing] restraints on students’ full participation, so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and may develop their full intellectual and human potential" (Harvard College Mission Statement).
Over the past two years, Divest Harvard’s mission has been to engage students and the administration in dialogue about divestment from fossil fuel industries. The dialogue that Divest Harvard seeks- and that the student body deserves- is one that allows students to hold the administration accountable for their decisions, as well as one that is open to any student who wishes to participate. Despite substantial support from students, faculty, and alumni, the Corporation and President Faust have refused to participate in this dialogue in an open and productive manner, even going so far as to arrest a student protesting the lack of this very dialogue. As members of the Harvard community, we want the investments of Harvard’s endowment to reflect our values and the shared values at the core of this institution. We feel that Harvard’s mission statement, which calls for students to “rejoice in […] critical thought” and to “assume responsibility for the consequences” of our actions, obligates us to engage in open and critical dialogue and to divest from fossil fuels.
Our Harvard Can Do Better is a campaign urging Harvard to reform its sexual violence policies to prioritize the needs of survivors and to create a just and safe campus for all students in line with Title IX. We are participating in the Commencement Day protest in order to highlight the ways in which the voices of survivors and activists are silenced and neglected by the administration. In its mission statement, the College vows to “identify and remove restraints on students’ full participation, so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and may develop their full intellectual and human potential.” The myriad impacts of sexual violence on the health and well-being of survivors of all genders create barriers to full engagement in Harvard’s learning environment. The University therefore has an urgent responsibility to defend its survivors and support the entire Harvard community to reach its full potential. Harvard has the opportunity to be a leader and to create policies that will reflect its values of inclusion, understanding, and integrity.
HarvardSDR is a university-wide coalition committed to addressing gender-based violence and discrimination at Harvard University. We represent the concerns of over seven graduate and professional schools who are working to improve Harvard’s sexual assault policy and programs. We aim to unite members of the Harvard community to catalyze change through education, policy reform, and student activism. Gender-based violence is not only an undergraduate issue; it is also an issue for graduate and professional students, who face a distinct set of circumstances. We are encouraged by recent steps taken by the University. Addressing the problem of sexual assault requires a comprehensive response and can only be developed with the voice of those whom it is designed to protect: students themselves. Student consultation and representation in the formal decision-making process is vital to ensure Harvard's new policy and programs are effective. We stand with the Harvard Class of 2014 as they stand with survivors.
We, the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), have spent more than a decade fighting for justice in the workplace at Harvard and beyond. Our Harvard community consists not just of students and professors, but also of workers, staff, and the wider Cambridge-Boston community. As such, we have been disappointed that Harvard has not given workers the respect they deserve. On campus, workers have experienced racist and sexist treatment from managers and have been retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment. In particular, Harvard Campus Services has been a hotbed of discrimination complaints, sparking at least three lawsuits alleging racial and/or gender discrimination in the past three years. Off campus, workers at the Harvard-owned DoubleTree Hotel have faced dismal and abusive conditions, including overwork to the point of injury; and they have continually been denied a fair process to decide on unionization. Harvard students, embodying Harvard’s mission to “serve society,” have petitioned Harvard in support of these workers. To our dismay, Harvard has continuously ignored worker and student requests for dignity at work. Worse, Harvard has attempted to pass off responsibility for its behavior to other actors, contradicting its mission to “assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions.” At this year’s Commencement, we ask that Harvard respect workers both on and off campus as valued members of the Harvard community.