A troubling pattern of insufficient support for underrepresented students at the Graduate School of Arts of Sciences has emerged over the last few months. In December, leaders of several student affinity groups submitted a proposal to administrators that demanded changes in the way both Dudley House and GSAS sustain affinity groups and diversity programming. In March, Aaron Benavidez — a finance officer from the Latinx Student Association at GSAS — sent out an email to over 100 students and administrators alleging that the school’s Office of Diversity and Minority Affairs failed to give adequate financial support to the organization.
These concerns come during a time of administrative change at GSAS, as Dudley House Faculty Deans James M. Hogle and Doreen M. Hogle plan to step down in June. This coincides with the splitting of Dudley House into “Dudley Community” — largely for undergraduates outside of the 12 residential House communities — and another group for graduate students.
Given that many of Harvard’s graduate schools have difficulty representing students from different backgrounds and identities, it is concerning that GSAS — the second-largest student body on campus — has faced multiple diversity-related issues recently.
As GSAS prepares for the Hogles’ departure, the University has an opportunity to set the tone on diversity in the school’s future. In doing so, they should carefully consider the 12 changes proposed by several members of affinity groups at the school. Particularly, administrators should seek to address issues of funding and lack of institutional support in looking to improve graduate students’ quality of life, especially for students from underrepresented and under-resourced backgrounds. Under the current model, GSAS allocates funding to only “umbrella organizations, ”or student groups that are reflective of multiple groups of Benavidez’s concerns reflect this issue. Going forward, GSAS should review the utility of the marginalized students. This model seems flawed and not as supportive as it could be; “umbrella organization” system in truly supporting the financial needs of these affinity groups.
One of the 12 changes proposed by these groups is a call for the replacement of Dudley House administrator Susan Zawalich. Though we do not endorse this demand, we believe that leadership matters: Thorough and critical evaluation of current leadership is necessary for ensuring that the University’s priorities are in line with those of the student body it represents. Administrators should be ready and enthusiastic to put the University’s vision for the future in practice, and the administration should continue to assess current key administrative figures’ ability to do so.
As Dudley is split, new faculty deans are sought after, and administrators review concerns from the student body, the next few months promise much change for GSAS. Diversity and student support should be of paramount importance during this time. We hope these concerns are considered deeply and that this consideration leads to broader and more open discussion about the state of diversity at GSAS and the University as a whole.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.