ODIB Updates

Visit this page for regular updates and statements from Harvard's Office for Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging

A Statement on the passing of Congressman John Lewis - February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020

July 19, 2020
John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. - Senior Advisor and Strategist to the President - Harvard University

I encountered John Lewis many times in my lifetime, dating back to when I was a student at Morehouse College in 1979. Today, I join millions in remembering and revering him as an American hero and a civil rights icon. But beyond that, I will forever appreciate him most for the very natural way in which he consistently, often wordlessly, called us all to be our better selves, individually and collectively.

He and I got together during the early days of my service as the President of Morehouse College. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to share with him my DuBoisian, “world of our dreams” vision, designed to help us realize capital and character preeminence in our lifetime at the College. He absolutely loved it, and he let me know it reminded him of the vision of another dreamer he admired. At the end of the visit, as I shook his hand, he deepened his voice to a sermonic, authoritative tone, and said, “Mister President!” Thereafter, as if to charge and energize my administration to fulfill that important vision, for the last seven years, each and every time I saw him, whether at the White House, at Morehouse, or in an airport, he began with a hearty, “Mr. President!”

Shortly after leaving Morehouse, I was onstage as a Harvard Overseer at the Harvard Commencement in 2018. He saw me, smiled warmly, and still greeted me with that same encouraging expression. I explained that I was now at Harvard trying to realize the world of our dreams from a different angle, and with an approach that our University leadership has since embraced as, “sustainable inclusive excellence.” Mr. Lewis nodded his approval. Minutes later, he delivered a powerful commencement address, in which he applauded our more inclusive vision, and urged the thousands gathered to keep getting into “good trouble, necessary trouble!” Yet again, he called us to be our best selves, because a better world was at stake…a world of our dreams!

Thank you for elevating us all! Rest in power, Congressman Lewis!

Congressman John Lewis and John Wilson

Ten projects to help advance a culture of belonging

July 1, 2020

It is with great enthusiasm that ODIB announces the 2020-21 grant recipients of the Harvard Culture Lab Innovation Fund (HCLIF). After receiving 98 applications from Harvard Community members last fall, HCLIF held two rigorous rounds of judging by review committees that included students, staff, and faculty. We are proud to present the 10 grant recipients that put forth exceptional solutions to advance diversity and a culture of belonging on our campus.

During these difficult times our hope is that these projects will contribute to creating a brighter future. These innovative solutions address the needs of some of our most vulnerable community members including undocumented students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ community members, first generation/low-income students, racial minorities, and marginalized genders.

Each project had a strong alignment with the goals from the report of the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging and adds recognizable value to our pursuit of sustainable inclusive excellence. Visit the CLIF grant recipient page to view all of the recipients and watch their video pitches.

Read more in The Crimson      Read more in the Gazette      Read more in the Gazette


Learn about Juneteenth

June 19, 2020

Long celebrated as an Independence Day in the African American community, Juneteenth marks the day—155 years ago this year—that enslaved African American people in Texas were told of their freedom from bondage. It offers a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of a new beginning, and I cannot imagine a better year for Harvard to begin recognizing its significance. These are extraordinary times distinguished by extraordinary displays of passion and resolve. We are everywhere reminded of the possibility of something different—something better—for our communities, our states, and our nation, as well as the deep reflection and hard work getting there will require of all of us.

-Excerpt from President Lawrence Bacow's message

Full Message


Of all Emancipation Day observances, Juneteenth falls closest to the summer solstice (this Friday, June 21), the longest day of the year, when the sun, at its zenith, defies the darkness in every state, including those once shadowed by slavery. By choosing to celebrate the last place in the South that freedom touched — reflecting the mystical glow of history and lore, memory and myth, as Ralph Ellison evoked in his posthumous novel, Juneteenth — we remember the shining promise of emancipation, along with the bloody path America took by delaying it and deferring fulfillment of those simple, unanticipating words in Gen. Granger’s original order No. 3: that “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”  

-Excerpt from Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. detailing the history of Juneteenth in the PBS series "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross."

What is Juneteenth



Combating Anti-black Racism

June 18, 2020

Harvard University has never been entirely insulated from the dynamism of life beyond its gates. If that was not crystal clear before now, it has certainly been clarified and amplified by the profound impact of both an unexpected virus and a set of unjust murders.

We share in the anger and pain reverberating across the nation in the wake of the recent instances of police brutality, white supremacist violence, and the manner in which COVID-19 is devastating black and brown communities at disproportionate rates. It is deeply saddening to hear about the untimely and preventable deaths of George Floyd (Minnesota), Breonna Taylor (Kentucky), and Ahmaud Arbery (Georgia). Furthermore, the epidemic of violence involving those who are black and transgender continues to claim lives, among them Nina Pop (Missouri) and Tony McDade (Florida). We also witnessed the weaponization of whiteness that could have led one of our graduates, Christian Cooper (New York), to share a similar fate as those aforementioned. Days ago, another shocking video surfaced capturing the final moments of Rayshard Brooks (Atlanta). The 27-year-old’s death has spurred a fresh wave of anguish and protests.

These incidents are not isolated, nor are they new phenomena. Not only are they common features of black life in America, but they are probably very present in the hearts and minds of our now dispersed Harvard community. And they will likely be top of mind when we all return to campus.

We have a responsibility to act with urgency. We must reckon with the structural inequality and pervasive prejudice that has led us here and work towards a future where these disparities no longer exist. Everyone has a role to play. Whether it is through civic engagement, engaging in personal learning, leveraging our privilege, positions and platforms, or challenging our friends, colleagues, and institutions.

The following guide is not an exhaustive list of resources and is being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only. If you require training or consultations, you may find relevant services on the DIB Action Portal or Resources page. If you use any of these resources, we’d like to hear from you. Please click our Response Survey to share how you used the resources and include any reflections. We will share your feedback and testimonials on our website. You can choose to be anonymous. Please email dib@harvard.edu with any questions.

View the anti-racist resource guide


The Choice Is Ours

June 1, 2020

Statement from Dr John Silvanus Wilson, Jr.

Dealing with the stress and angst of the Covid-19 pandemic was hard enough, especially given its disparate impact on minority populations and the increased hate against Asian-Americans. Yet, those difficulties were worsened by the shocking circumstances surrounding the deaths of
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Nina Pop (a victim of the increasing violence against transgender black women). And then we all spent the past week being literally stunned with sadness, pain and anger stemming from the graphic and widely-viewed murder of George Floyd. Now, it seems appropriate to regard the matter of America’s racial injustice and inequity, not merely as a crisis warranting urgency, but it should be seen as a national emergency.


Like so many people around the nation and the world, I watched the video of Mr. Floyd’s murder in horror. George Floyd cooperated. He was unarmed. He never resisted. He was cuffed. He was prostrate and fearfully subject to the power and intentions of four police officers. As one officer obstructed his breathing with his knee, George Floyd begged for his life. He called for his mother. He repeated, “I can’t breathe.” And at least once, George Floyd called the officer from whom he sought mercy, “sir.” He died while respectfully appealing to the uniformed men sworn to protect us all. And we all saw it.

I shall never forget that. Nor should any of us. Clearly, our country is far from becoming the more perfect union described long ago as our aspiration. We have important work to do and we have critical choices to make.

Since the ensuing unrest has resembled that which followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it makes sense to consider Dr. King’s outlook in the final year of his life. He secluded himself for weeks to write his fourth and final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? He made it clear that the most important choices are ours to make.

Harvard University recently made a choice to steadily and deliberately evolve our campus culture toward one that will help to ensure that everyone in our community thrives. We are pursuing what we call, “sustainable inclusive excellence.” I am proud to have led the team to launch our efforts in this direction of becoming a much better community.

Overcoming the viral systems of both white supremacy and racial inequity will require hard work that is not the responsibility of communities of color alone, but of all of us. We all have a role to play to ensure that this Nation realizes an inclusive greatness that she has yet to exhibit.

When the pandemic shifted nearly all college and university commencement ceremonies from traditional to virtual, many people thought the special moments would be completely lost. That is not entirely true. One special moment from Harvard’s virtual commencement deserves focus. The undergraduate student speaker, Michael J. Phillips, pointed to a choice facing all of us. Referencing his experiences at Harvard, he wondered how he and his fellow graduates might use their education to make themselves forces for good in the world. He ended by echoing a phrase made famous by Dr. King, who said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Mr. Phillips called his classmates to a higher place, saying, “we were fortunate to fly high enough that we might grab the moral arc of the universe itself. May we bend it in the right direction.”

Now, more than ever, we all must choose community over chaos as the right direction.

Link to full statement


Resources on Grief and Loss

May 29, 2020

The pandemic has and continues to take a heavy toll on our community. Whether we have been directly affected by the death of a loved one, or extend our grievances to classmates, mentors, relatives, and colleagues, community, health and well-being is more important now. We gathered here some resources for the Harvard members to lean on in times of grief and loss. Write to dib@harvard.edu to add your recommendation to this list and be here for each other.

View the resources

National Trends related to Bias, Discrimination during COVID19

April 24, 2020

We have compiled national statistics capturing the impact and frequency of instances of bias and discrimination occurring since the rise of the pandemic. Existing societal inequities are exacerbated during times of crisis, and directly impact the mental and physical health, security, economic, professional, and educational well-being of Harvard community members. Acknowledging and working to thoughtfully address these issues will reinforce our commitment to diversity and display a strong show of support for our most vulnerable community members during this time. 

Download the statistics


What should I do if experience racial discrimination or observe a racist incident in the Harvard community?

April 2, 2020

graphic to submit a report via Ethics point reporting Hotline

The University and its schools have policies against racial discrimination and procedures for handling such incidents. You can also contact the Anonymous Reporting Hotline, which is run by an independent, third-party provider, toll-free by calling 877- 694-2275 or submit a report online. The hotline is for reporting issues in situations where you don’t feel comfortable speaking with a supervisor or other resource. (Please read about the hotline to better understand the reporting process, including information regarding non-retaliation and confidentiality). If, at any time, you are concerned for your safety, contact the Harvard University Police Department at 617-495-1212 or 617-432-1212 for the Longwood Medical Campus.

AAU Presidents and Chancellors Call for Unity Amid Efforts to Battle COVID-19 Pandemic

March 20, 2020

The following is a statement by the Association of American Universities member Presidents and Chancellors on the extraordinary measures America’s leading research universities are taking to address COVID-19. The idea of the 65 AAU presidents standing together and posting such a statement was first advocated and then led by our own President, Larry Bacow. It grew out of his concern about the global rise in incidents of anti-Asian hate since the emergence of the COVID-19 threat.

"Amidst the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, our universities are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and communities as we continue our front-line work to fight the virus through leading-edge research and medical treatment. As we undertake this critical work, we do so as communities committed to inclusion and belonging, drawing on the knowledge and strength of individuals from across our nation and the world. Now is the time for all of us to come together to support each other. Viruses have no nationality, no religion, no ethnicity, and no gender. As the leaders of America’s leading research universities, we ask all Americans to support each other as we deploy every tool at our disposal to protect our communities and fight this disease."

Read the full press release from the AAU 


Encouraging kindness and compassion

March 13, 2020

As Harvard University rapidly transitions by exploring new ways to educate and operate, we urge all Harvard community members to embody our five core values on and far beyond our campus. Collectively, our values point us toward inclusive excellence, which is especially relevant with so many of us being apart and experiencing high levels of stress.

Unfortunately, we are hearing reports of increased anti-Asian discrimination, prejudice and harassment, globally. These hateful acts are both intolerable and inconsistent with our values. As we encourage kindness and compassion, we also urge support of those in the Asian community and any other targeted communities. Harvard condemns stereotyping and violence against any group and for any reason…and especially in times like these.

University Resources

March 12, 2020

As we are all adjusting to the many changes being asked of our community, please utilize the University resources listed below:

Where Everyone Can Thrive

March 10, 2020

Harvard University is committed to fostering a campus culture where everyone can thrive, a key to which is ensuring that we each experience a profound sense of inclusion and belonging. To that end, as a reminder, our established core values are as follows:

Harvard's five core values

Harvard community members are encouraged to always model our values of inclusion and excellence no matter where they are. Especially during difficult and uncertain times — whether locally, nationally, or internationally— let us always choose empathy and kindness, while rejecting hate and honoring the rights, differences, and dignity of others.