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Overdue conversations about race made their way to most corners of America this summer, prompted by George Floyd’s killing and the powder keg of injustices prior. This moment prompted our editorial board — alongside so many other organizations — to critically review our history, stances, and current practices. Why do we look the way we do and opine the way we have? How does our work relate to racial justice?
In June, we outlined a series of five editorials exploring how Harvard can help fight anti-black racism. The first three of these laid out concrete actions we wish the University would take to help usher in a more just future, including divesting from private prisons and abolishing our own private police force. But in this, the final installation in our staff editorial series, we’re turning inward to share the product of three intense meetings over the last few weeks, during which we thought about how we could reform our own practices.
And while this editorial marks the final installment in our racial justice series, we hope its commitments move us toward a more comprehensive, empathetic, and transparent approach to social responsibility — the start of a more rigorous dedication to listening, learning, and improving that extends beyond any of our individual tenures.
Our board is small and only imperfectly representative of the Harvard community. Though we’ve diversified vastly since our 1911 origins, we remain bound by the voices of those in our meetings. Whether we opine on an issue or not, and the approach we take to doing so, is inevitably a reflection of our board’s membership and their respective perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.
Yet our voice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for that of students broadly and our platform allows us to loudly and effectively champion causes. Both our impact — like citations in University decisions and national publications — and our mistakes suggest that our community deserves a board that is receptive to the breadth of perspectives on our campus as well as transparent about who we are. To aid us in our continuous effort to bring more of the community into our writing process, we are setting out four first steps.
First, we will be opening a “suggestion box” for criticisms, questions, and just about anything else. Starting in September, it will allow for both named and anonymous submissions and be accessible at the bottom of our staff editorials and on the opinion page landing page. While we will continue to accept letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org, we hope this new feature will make it easier for you to tell us what you think about our work and what you hope to see us cover.
Second, we will more frequently reach out to campus groups as we prepare to opine on topics that touch on their particular needs, identities, and causes. These live conversations with campus groups — structured as Q&As at the start of our meetings — help us come to more informed and thoughtful decisions. Our peers often have insight on issues we simply don’t, and when we’re opining on issues we don’t have a hand in, we want to hear them out. If your organization would like to sit with us for one of these conversations (or would like to see us opine on a certain issue), do not hesitate to reach out.
Third, during our upcoming recruitment campaigns we will emphasize that the Editorial Board is a space for dissent and disagreement, with a leaning as malleable as our membership. Every staff editorial is decided by vote, and new membership can and does change our stances. Moreover, our best content often comes in the form of strongly worded and often prescient dissents. We hope to encourage those who have disagreed with our opinions in the past, or who have felt that The Crimson was not for them to join the board, bringing their fresh ideas and views with them.
And, starting in September, we will publish a list of the current active editors on the Editorial Board, directly accessible via our website. While we take pride in our institutional byline, we believe it’s important that our community can hold us accountable for what we publish.
For ourselves and for the community we hope to serve, we still have questions to answer. About how to foster space for disagreement and diversity of thought and about what our own editorial voice can do to combat injustice. Please never hesitate to reach out to us with questions or concerns. However you wish to engage — writing an op-ed, submitting feedback or a letter to the editor, or joining our team — we need your voice.
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.
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