Our Values

Two weeks have passed since the horrific attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens. As I noted in my letter on October 10th, terrorist actions against civilians are not only unconscionable, they are inconsistent with our most fundamental values; as humans, we must condemn them. The atrocities carried out were heinous and they have left the Israeli and Jewish members of our community, and all of us, reeling.

The ensuing days also have been deeply unsettling as the conflict has escalated in the Middle East. Shock has given way to deep pain and grief, sadness, and anger. Many in our community are afraid: uncertain whether they are welcome at Harvard Business School, unsure how to engage in class discussions, and even feeling physically unsafe for themselves and their loved ones. In the U.S. and around the world, examples of antisemitic hate speech, graffiti, vandalism, riots, and fire bombings, as well as violence such as the stabbing of a young Palestinian boy and his mother in Chicago, have only heightened this fear. Other individuals are afraid in a different way: that what they say might offend or make people angry, that they don’t understand the history behind the current events, and that if they try to offer support or speak up, they will get it wrong and be seen as insensitive or even complicit.

Moreover, the pro-Palestinian demonstration that crossed from Cambridge onto our campus last Wednesday, which included a troubling confrontation between one of our MBA students and a subset of the protestors, has left many of our students shaken. Reports have been filed with HUPD and the FBI, the facts are being evaluated, and it will be some time before we learn the results of an investigation. But the protest has raised questions about how we address freedom of speech, hateful speech that goes against our community values, and security and safety for everyone at the School.

In this context, I am reaching out to all members of the Harvard Business School community to discuss these and other issues that are affecting our School and campus. This is my purview as Dean and this is my responsibility to each of you.

Our Values

“And Thinking” is the idea that we can go beyond traditional either/or dichotomies and think expansively about the challenges we face. Hearing the pain and anguish so many of you have shared, I have debated whether to apply And Thinking to the moment we are facing now—it may be perceived as being too equivocal, or the wrong moment. But, not saying And has perhaps kept me from saying things that are important to say.

Let me start, then, by acknowledging that antisemitism exists on our campus, and stating unequivocally there is no place for it here. We have a strong and deeply valued Jewish and Israeli community at Harvard Business School. In recent days, many have shared with me their anger at Harvard’s history of antisemitism and their dismay that it continues today. We can and must start by making a difference at HBS. Antisemitism is insidious and we simply cannot allow it to persist in any form. We must ensure that our Jewish and Israeli faculty, staff, students, and alumni feel not only safe and supported by our community, but also a deep sense of belonging and understanding.

And, let me say emphatically that Islamophobia exists at HBS, and has no place on our campus either. We have a strong and deeply valued Muslim and Arab community. We must ensure that these faculty, staff, students, and alumni feel safe, supported, and at home at our School; Islamophobia, too, is insidious and cannot be allowed. We must be a place that embraces diversity—of culture, of religion, of ethnicity, and of every other aspect of identity and experience. This is what enriches our classroom discussions and the learning environment, and this principle is codified in our community value of respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others. We must ensure we live up to that value.

Let me also state that I condemn violence and hateful speech, words, and actions like doxing that damage the fabric of our community, detract from learning, and can incite violence. Some protestors at Wednesday’s demonstration held banners and chanted words widely understood to call for the end of Israel—inciting the eradication of a nation and its people. There is no place for hateful speech on our campus. It violates our community values—values that hold all of us to a higher standard than simply protecting free speech.

And, we must enable robust dialogue and the expression of divergent points of view. At a University whose motto is Veritas, we should strive to ensure that our arguments and claims are true and rooted in fact. But we must be okay with being uncomfortable, even offended, at times. We must allow peaceful protests, demonstrations, and gatherings, and I will defend the right to voice dissent without hate. This is a fundamental principle of a strong democratic society that respects civil liberties.

I believe that we can do more than one thing at the same time—and that we must do so now, when there are many values we must uphold. I also believe that, by doing so, we can come together as a community and deliver on the promise we make to the students who come to our School: an engaging learning experience, and an education in business, management, and leadership. Yet we must also create the space necessary to grieve, to console, to express, to understand, to challenge, to debate, and to inspire.


It also is a time for action. Let me outline efforts either underway or planned to launch this week.

First, we will undertake an effort to understand the experience of antisemitism at Harvard Business School—investigating more deeply the concern I have heard that noxious elements of antisemitism persist on our campus and in our classrooms. After this assessment—which will engage faculty, staff, students, and alumni—is complete, we then will develop an action plan outlining specific steps we might take to address antisemitism at the School. The lessons we learn from this effort will help us examine other hidden forms of discrimination that persist at HBS, including Islamophobia. Throughout my time as Dean, I have expressed my aspiration that Harvard Business School be a place where every individual is able to be the best they can be. It pains me to acknowledge this is not our current reality, and so we must take on this work with energy and urgency. Toward that end, we will announce the leadership and composition of this group before the end of the month.

Second, I am mobilizing small groups of faculty, staff, and students to revisit and clarify aspects of our campus culture. One group will look at our classroom norms and how we continue to deliver our planned curriculum while providing opportunities to discuss and deepen understanding of the conflict. A second group will examine demonstration guidelines, ensuring we protect and balance our community values, rights of expression, restrictions on hateful speech, and the safety and well-being of every member of our community. This will necessitate developing a deeper and shared understanding of hate speech: what constitutes it, how we define it, and the repercussions for members of our community who use it. Both groups will be asked to develop recommendations we can implement quickly and modify as circumstances change.

Finally, we are taking additional steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our community. We have a sophisticated security plan as our baseline, including a state-of-the-art Security Operations Center that is staffed 24/7 and the ability, for example, to lock down a classroom, an office, or a building almost instantly. Campus security can be reached, night and day, by calling 617.495.5577, and HUPD is available at 617.495.1212 if any individual senses a threat to their personal safety. Both HUPD and HBS have increased patrols by officers and other security personnel. And our Operations team works daily with HUPD, local, state, and federal agencies to evaluate threat levels and to support events and campus activities in a coordinated way. While no credible threat has yet been identified, we are considering additional steps such as requiring ID-card access to more buildings on campus.

Additionally, two Harvard-wide Community Spaces—one to support Jewish, and one to support Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian community members—have been launched which aim to foster a sense of belonging through dialogue with peers. Gatherings have been scheduled through the end of the month and additional details can be found here in the Quick Links. The University also has published a Guide for Protecting Against Online Abuse and Harassment, which can be found here. We will work closely and individually with any student, faculty member, or staff member who comes to us with concern, and are open to other suggestions and ideas. We want our campus to be safe, secure, and vibrant.

Closing Thoughts

We must find a way forward. Why? Because if we can’t do it here—drawing on the strength of our community, the knowledge and experience among us, and the resources of Harvard University—then where else can this work be done? I recognize the grief and pain of so many at the School. I feel it myself. I also firmly believe that by educating leaders who make a difference in the world, and by learning and working together across our differences, we can contribute to peace and prosperity around the globe. Now is the time to recommit to our mission with a sense of urgency and purpose.

All the best and kindest regards,
Srikant Datar

This message was distributed to the Harvard Business School community.