Faculty Council Brainstorms How to Support Students After Election


UPDATED: October 19, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

Harvard’s Faculty Council launched preliminary discussions Wednesday about how to support students and faculty following next month’s presidential election.

“Just brainstorming together, but I suspect something will come of it,” Council member and Philosophy chair Edward J. “Ned” Hall wrote in an email.

President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory left much of Harvard’s largely liberal student body stunned and concerned about what a Trump presidency could mean for them and their families. Following Election Day in 2016, Harvard administrators and House Faculty deans emailed messages of support to students and offered to host discussions about the political shift.


Current polls indicate that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has a significant lead over Trump, but the Council’s meeting Wednesday suggests that administrators are mulling a variety of outcomes. They may face an even more significant challenge supporting students as three-quarters of undergraduates attend classes remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic and those on campus live largely isolated in their dorm rooms.

Just six percent of Harvard students who responded to Crimson’s pre-election survey in 2016 planned to vote for Trump. An even lower percentage — 4.7 percent — of respondents to this year’s Freshman Survey indicated a favorable view of the president.

The election results will also have significant effects for Harvard as an institution, which has clashed with the current administration. Just three of 260 respondents to The Crimson’s 2020 faculty survey indicated that they support Trump.

The Faculty Council on Wednesday also heard a report on the Harvard libraries’ coronavirus measures and received a virtual tour of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ new Allston campus from SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III, according to Hall.

Harvard initially planned to hold classes at the Allston campus in fall 2020, but the pandemic pushed back its planned opening. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will begin moving across the river next month, with classes slated to begin for the 2021-2022 academic year.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.