07 Jun 2020

Standing and acting together for racial justice


Dear members of the HBS community,

Over the past week, I've had opportunities to speak with and get input from many members of our community about what the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, the ensuing protests, and the calls for racial justice mean. I hear in these conversations a range of emotions. Impatience, that despite 150 years since the abolishment of slavery in the US and the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments, the fundamental economic, social, and judicial rights promised to all citizens remain unattainable to so many of our Black citizens. Anger, that promises for reform too often yield no tangible results. Dismay, that institutions best positioned to effect meaningful change, have failed to use their voices and resources toward that end.

They count Harvard Business School among those institutions, and they are right. Generations of faculty, students, staff, and alumni at the School have worked to recruit and support Black students in our programs, to develop and teach materials featuring Black business leaders, and to conduct and disseminate research on how racial injustice and inequality can be reduced in organizations and society. Yet, absent efforts at the same time to address the underlying discrimination and racial injustice in our country, our progress has been painfully insufficient. In our hundred-year-plus history, we have tenured only four Black professors. The number of Black students in our MBA Program has largely remained stuck in the fifties for three decades, and the number of Black students in our Doctoral Programs—a pipeline for developing future faculty members—is low to nonexistent in any given year. We have too few Black staff, and even fewer Black colleagues in leadership positions. Cases and research featuring Black protagonists and racial challenges are woefully underrepresented. Two years ago, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the African American Student Union, we acknowledged these difficult truths.

Today, on behalf of the HBS community, I apologize that we have not fought racism as effectively as we could have and have not served our Black community members better.

I resolve to make more urgent progress and know that many at the School are eager to join in this work, including the students in the African American Student Union (AASU) who have been such vital partners in recent days. In that spirit, we will take immediate action and make these solemn commitments.

Our actions and plans will focus on three pillars: conducting research and education that advances our understanding of racism, inequality, and discrimination; supporting the Black community within and beyond Harvard Business School; and engaging the broader business community on racial justice. We will seek not just to reduce racism, but to proactively be anti-racist.

We will begin by taking the following initial steps:

    - Create a permanent page on the School's website dedicated to resources that advance racial understanding, including a core set of teaching and research materials that are free and widely available.
    - Train our community, including our faculty, on how to better engage with race-related discussions inside and outside the classroom.
    - Develop an annual report that transparently outlines the School's objectives and progress related to racial equity.
    - Use design thinking and other creative approaches to identify new ways of recruiting and retaining Black students, faculty, and staff.
    - Create a framework for businesses to report on key diversity metrics and encourage them to share it while recruiting at HBS.

In everything we do, we will strive to lead by example, recognizing the School's influence in business education and the broader business community. We will act quickly, while dedicating ourselves also to developing a more comprehensive and longer-term plan to root out racism in our community and beyond. We will create and share an action plan for 2020-2021 prior to start of the fall semester.

In the days to come, we will convene people from throughout our community in thoughtful conversations to determine how this moment in history can be a turning point for real change, rather than just another distressing episode in a long history of racial injustice. We hope you will join us in this conversation. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote from the Birmingham Jail, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere…. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." We must all be in this together—to redress this wrong, and to ensure we can apply the lessons we learn to other groups that are marginalized and face discrimination. I urge each of you to do your part.

Through these steps, we hope to demonstrate tangibly that Harvard Business School stands in solidarity with its Black community.

With faith in our commitment to one another, to action, and to justice,


Post a Comment

Comments must be on-topic and civil in tone (with no name calling or personal attacks). Any promotional language or urls will be removed immediately. Your comment may be edited for clarity and length.