Working Groups Update

With the spring semester underway, I am writing to provide more information about the working groups we announced late last year. They now have had an opportunity to identify and prioritize the issues they expect to understand and address (see below); to identify how they might engage members of our community, whether on the working groups, through focus groups and conversations, or by providing opportunities for education; and to think about timelines for their efforts that may vary within and across groups based on considerations like our calendar, complexity, and a range of other factors. These plans complement other work done over the break—including in the MBA Program, for example, to incorporate lessons from the fall in equipping students and faculty for discussions that increase learning and deepen understanding in our classrooms in this new term.

Let me repeat what I have said before: as grateful as I am to the chairs and members of these working groups, ensuring that we live our community values will require that we all find ways to learn from, contribute to, or engage in this work.

We’ve set up a Working Together email that the working groups will use for future outreach and where you can share ideas and feedback. Additionally, in the next few weeks, please keep an eye on Know Your HBS for Q&As with the working group co-chairs as well as updates, requests, learning opportunities, and events.

Thank you.

Antisemitism Working Group
The group’s work primarily focuses on HBS students, staff, and faculty, with outreach to alums and Executive Education participants, and revolves around three streams: the Jewish experience at HBS, building understanding and broadening learning, and leadership and policies. The team will host focus groups and one-on-one conversations to hear observations, concerns, and recommendations with the goal of creating and implementing action steps for HBS. Additionally, we will assemble educational materials and orchestrate a set of sessions, adapted to meet the needs of different audiences at the School. And, the group will explore ways to develop our own educational content about antisemitism and how best to incorporate it into our pedagogy. Our aim is to formulate content and learning vehicles that endure, so that HBS community members understand the insidious history of antisemitism and feel equipped to recognize and combat antisemitism and hatred more broadly. We will also examine episodes at the School that have elicited concerns among Jewish community members so as to learn how policies and practices might be improved to create a more informed and inclusive culture.

Islamophobia & Anti-Arabism Working Group
This working group has three primary goals: to better understand how we can make HBS supportive and inclusive for Arab and Muslim members of our community, to work with key partners at the School to implement impactful actions, and to create enduring and thoughtful education opportunities for the HBS community. We will conduct focus groups and one-on-one conversations with students, staff, and faculty, as well as young alums, throughout the semester to learn first-hand about their experiences and recommendations. We are particularly grateful to students and staff who are partnering with us in this important work. We understand that Arab and Muslim individuals at HBS often feel stereotyped and fear being targeted, whether in direct or covert ways. Understanding and education are critical to overcoming these stereotypes, tropes, and misconceptions. Our goal is to develop learning opportunities for members of our community, both inside and outside the classroom, to improve understanding and eliminate hate.

The Antisemitism and Islamophobia & Anti-Arabism working groups will work together to create stronger foundations for understanding and cooperation between Arab, Muslim, and Jewish members of our community for a better present and future.

Classroom Culture & Norms Working Group
We are working to fine-tune the School’s practices for helping students develop and adhere to shared norms for engaging in respectful, productive dialogue in the classroom and beyond, with the aim of strengthening these practices and ensuring that the norms remain helpful in times of extraordinary stress. In doing so, we anticipate learning from and sharing best practices across the School’s academic programs. As our work unfolds, we look forward to connecting with a number of section chairs, administrators, and student leaders, as well as other experts who can help broaden our perspective and provide input on our efforts.

Free Speech & Community Values Working Group
The group’s work will involve clarifying the relationship between free speech, academic freedom, and community values. A subset of the group has already reviewed the School’s demonstration policies with an eye toward re-stating the forms of protest allowable at HBS and the responsibilities demonstrators must fulfill. In the months ahead, we will aim to understand and advise the Dean and the broader HBS community how free expression in various contexts—including hateful speech—intersects with the values members of the HBS community commit to uphold, namely: mutual respect, honesty and integrity, and personal accountability.

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