An Open Letter to Dean Robbin Chapman


April 17, 2018

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Dear Dean Chapman,

Welcome to the Harvard Kennedy School! We are glad to have you here and look forward to working with you. Many of us have spent the year or two of our degrees working to hold HKS accountable to its Diversity Statement. In this statement, HKS committed to: recruit diverse groups of students, faculty, and staff; increase the range of underrepresented minorities; remove sources of unconscious bias; and develop a curriculum that celebrates diversity.

We believe that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is crucial at HKS because the classrooms of the world’s leading school of government should look like the world that we work to improve. Despite rising application numbers, many American communities and regions of the world remain underrepresented at HKS. The percentage of students in the MPP and MC/MPA degrees who identify as Black, Hispanic/Latinx, or Asian either decreased or remained unchanged between 2005 and 2015.  The faculty remains overwhelmingly white and male. There is much to be done for HKS to have a culture that is comfortable engaging in difference and disagreement.

However, there have been positive developments that make us hopeful that HKS can change: the creation of new courses on disability and LGBTQ rights; an effort by the Admissions Office to expand recruitment in the American South; an open dialogue about how to increase the number of international speakers and events, to name a few. Your arrival is another encouraging sign of progress.

Over the next few weeks, you will meet with faculty, staff, and students to learn what HKS needs to do to achieve the diversity that its students, staff, and faculty deserve. In advance of these discussions, we would like to call your attention to the following issues:

– Accountability and Transparency: The HKS administration has been reluctant to make data on diversity publicly available. The Diversity Task Force draft report from 2017 mostly includes data up to 2015, and is only accessible to current students on KNet. To us, this reluctance signals that the administration knows it is not meeting its diversity standards. But acknowledging this failure is the first step in improving our D&I problem. We want HKS to publish this data so that we can use it to hold the school accountable and offer solutions for our most pressing needs;

– Diversity of All Kinds at All Levels: Diversity is not simply an issue of black and white, domestic and international, or conservative and liberal. We want HKS to acknowledge and work towards achieving all forms of diversity, rather than prioritizing some forms over others. In addition, we want the school to truly leverage the diversity in our community, ensure that everyone can bring their experiences to their work, deepen our understanding of others’ perspectives, and look at who benefits from the decisions we make. This includes admissions, recruiting, fellow selection, faculty hiring, curriculum design, and beyond.

– Meaningful Student Input: The Diversity Committee is currently controlled by the HKS administration, which decides the schedule and agenda of meetings. This means that the Committee does not have a regular schedule (it has only met once this semester), and many students do not feel that the Committee takes their concerns seriously. The Committee should meet regularly (perhaps every other week) and proactively solicit student input into meeting agendas. HKS should also consider creating paid positions — equivalent to research assistant roles at academic centers — for selected students who will contribute a considerable amount of time to HKS diversity initiatives.

We are here to work with you and support you, and will continue to do so even after some of us graduate from HKS. We believe that, throughout your tenure, you will engage with students, listen to our needs, and consider missing perspectives. We recognize that taking these steps will not be easy, and it will require collective effort to champion and enact these much-needed changes. We want to make sure you know that we, the students, will be behind you in these moments of courage and action.

Sincerely,

Meredith Davis Tavera MPP 2018 Apefa Ashiagbor MC/MPA 2018
Claris Chang MPP 2018 Neil Thomas MPP 2018
Natalia Cote-Munoz MPP 2018 Salma El-Yassir MC/MPA 2018
Bryan Cortes MPP 2020 Dena Elkhatib MC/MPA 2018
Dan Hanrahan MPP 2018 Camilla Taufic MPP 2019
Colin Killick MPP 2018  Chuck Herman MPP 2018
Alison Collins MPP 2018 Elle Dodd MPP 2018
Christine Koh MPP 2018 Charlotte McEwen MPP 2018
Aliya Bhatia MPP 2018 Sunita Saligram MC/MPA 2018
Brendan Roach MPP 2018 Claudia Ng MPP 2018
Silvie Senauke MPP 2018 Jennie Williamson MC/MPA 2018
Sibella Matthews MPP 2018 Rosi Greenberg MPP 2018
Ian Lee MPP 2018 Matt McDole MPP 2018
Jack Pead MPP 2018 Leticia Rojas MPP 2019
Wen Hoe MPP 2018 Eamon O’Connor Joint Degree 2019
Yu Kawashima MC/MPA 2018 Layla O’Kane MPA/ID 2018
Benjamin Clayton MPP 2018 Rachel Levenson MPA/ID 2018
Andrew Sugrue MPP 2018 Akina Younge MPP 2019
Margareta Matache MC/MPA 2019 Alina Xu MPA/ID 2019
Justin Galle MPP 2018 Kevin Leiby MPA/ID 2018
Faran Sikandar MPA/ID 2018 Stacey Fang Joint Degree 2019
Tirza Reinata MC/MPA 2018 Rohit Gawande Joint Degree 2019
Alexander Matthews MPP 2018 Kristell Millan MPP 2018
Christina Lowe MPP 2018 Lillie Carroll Joint Degree 2019
Nanako Yano Joint Degree 2018 Peter Drivas MPP 2018
Amelia Sampat MPP 2018 Sarah Canny MPP 2018
Jean Guo MPP 2020 Bob payne MPP 2018
Daniel Peckham MPP 2018 Laura White MPP 2018
Catia Sharp MPP 2018 Priyanka Kaura MPP 2019
Luna Kim MPP 2018 Sophie Feldman MPP 2019
Shaniqua McClendon MPP 2018 Brady Roberts MPP 2019
Elorm Avakame MPP 2018 Thomas Mclaughlin MPP 2019
Ira Guha MPP 2019 Kara Kaufman MPP 2019
Takanori MORISHIMA MPA/ID 2018 Martha Lee MPP 2019
Sheri Lynn Meyerhoffer MC/MPA 2018 Laura Merryfield MPP 2019
Abdulla AlHajeri MC/MPA 2018 Dina Montemarano MPP 2019
May Chengnan Wu MPP 2018 Mo Earley MPA 2020
Namita Mody MPP 2018 Pranav Reddy Joint Degree 2019
Stefan Norgaard MPP 2019 Micah Melia MPP 2019
Hannah Walker MPP 2019 Annie Donolo MPP 2019
Cameron Lindsay MC/MPA 2018 Santisgo Mueckay MPP 2019
Abril Gordienko MC/MPA 2018 Sydney Fang MPP 2020
Rhazi Koné Joint Degree 2020 Ayush Chakravarty MPP 2019
Sayaka Takahashi MC/MPA 2018 Jill Ni MPA 2020
Stephane Genot MPA 2018 Seth Nelson MPP 2018
Mitchell Watt MPP 2018 Consuelo Fernandez MPP 2019
Kelly Clark MPP 2018 Sasha Ramani MPP 2018
Nate Vernon MPP 2018 Catherine Marks MPP 2019
Megan White MPP 2019 Adam Watkins MPP 2019
Amanda R. Matos MPP 2019 David Perez Joint Degree 2020
Michael Auslen MPP 2019 Tim Huang MPP 2019
Alyssa Davis MPP 2019 Jordan Maitland MPP 2018
Miles Roman MPP 2019 Jackson Wright MPP 2019
David Reiff Joint Degree 2020 Erick Diaz Joint Degree 2020
Arjun Bisen MPP 2019 Asad Ramzanali MPP 2019
Emily Ausubel MPP 2019 Devashish Chandra MPP 2019
Arthur Abal MPP 2019 Claire Rochecouste MC/MPA 2018
Elliott James MPP 2019 Kyle Burton MPP 2019
Bethany Ellis MPP 2019 Katie Monroe MPP 2019
Charles Skold MPA 2019 Ashley Miller MPP 2018
Hannah Masuga MPP 2019 Sidanth Sapru MPA 2020
Dilhan Perera MPP 2019 Mairi Robertson MPP 2019
Anant Udpa MPP 2020 Erin Sielaff Joint Degree 2020
Jonathan Truong MPP 2019 Juan Felipe Olano MPP 2019
John Michael Schert MC/MPA 2018 Ori Pleban MPP 2019
Daniel Mol Marcolino MPP 2019 Regan Smurthwaite MPP 2019
Joan Moon MPP 2019 Jana Pohorelsky MPP 2019
Liz Weber MPP 2018 Anushka Siddiqui MPP 2019
Michael Galant MPP 2018 Yolanda Botti-Lodovico MPP 2019
Tobias Garnett MPP 2019 Mike Miesen MPP 2019
Rahel Dette MPP 2019 James Pershing MPP 2019
Adam Watkins MPP 2019 Samuel Zegas Joint Degree 2020
Elizabeth Patton MPP 2019 Miriam Aschkenasy MC/MPA 2018
Bonny Tsang MPP 2019 Angelo Paolo T. Kalaw MPA/ID 2019
Alexandra Schmitt MPP 2019 Ke Wang Joint Degree 2019
Nathaniel Eisen MPP 2019 Bar Peled MPP 2018
Zachary Martinez MPP 2019 Dina H Sherif MC/MPA 2018
Stephanie Choi Joint Degree 2019 Sahar Ali Dar MPA 2018
Grace Palmer MPP 2019 Elyse Voegeli MPP 2019
Jake Rashbass MPP 2019 Daniela Philipson Garcia MPP 2019
Amy Zhou MPP 2018 Michelle Infanzon MPA/ID 2018
Florian Ostmann MPP 2018 Raphael Yayra Awuku Joint Degree 2018
Gabrielle Tarini MPP 2019 Abdulkadir Abdirahman MPA/ID 2020
Friederike Strub MPP 2019 Will Lindsey MPP 2019
Garrett Neiman Joint Degree 2020 Miriam Aschkenasy MC/MPA 2018
Ketty LIe Joint Degree 2019 Gessika Innocent MC/MPA 2018
Betsy Cowan MC/MPA 2018 Emily Guo Joint Degree 2020
Neha Thakkar MC/MPA 2018 Emily Hsiao MPA/ID 2020
Dana Rassas MC/MPA 2018
Total Number of Students: 175