The proportion of American Harvard Kennedy School students identifying as Black or African American fell by two percentage points in 2022 as the school’s student body and faculty remain overwhelmingly white, according to an annual diversity report released by the school Thursday afternoon.
The Kennedy School, which only collects data on the racial diversity of its students who are U.S. citizens, saw the proportion of its students who identify as Black or African American drop to nine percent in 2022, compared to 11 percent in 2021.
The percentage of students who identify as Hispanic or Latinx declined for the second consecutive year to 12 percent, down one percentage point from 2021, while the proportion of students who identify as white declined for the fourth year in a row to 51 percent.
Lindsey Batteast, a second-year master of public policy student at HKS and member of the school’s Equity Coalition, said she was disappointed and concerned by the diversity report.
“It makes students question how much faith they can put in the HKS administration to not only promote diversity, equity and inclusion, but also ensure that it’s a pillar of our community, in the sense that we actually see it in adequate representation,” Batteast said.
The proportion of Asian students at HKS increased by five percentage points from 2021 numbers, reaching 23 percent. The school reported no students of Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or Native Pacific Islander backgrounds.
The Kennedy School does not present data about the race and ethnicity of its international students because “race and ethnicity are interpreted differently in different settings around the world,” according to the school’s diversity report. This year, a majority of the Kennedy School’s student body is from outside the U.S., with 52 percent of students hailing from non-U.S. countries and territories.
While HKS slightly improved gender diversity within its faculty, tenured professors at the Kennedy School continue to be disproportionately white and male. The proportion of tenured professors who identify as white rose to 78 percent — up one percentage point from 2021 — while 72 percent identify as male, compared to 74 percent in 2021.
The Kennedy School does not have a single tenured professor of Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or Native Pacific Islander backgrounds, and only two tenured professors identify as Black.
Khalil G. Muhammad, who is one of two Black tenured professors at HKS, said the school’s progress on improving its diversity is “not sufficient.”
“The pace of change at this point appears to be glacial,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad said that this year’s report demonstrates the Kennedy School must change its strategy when it comes to recruiting a diverse group of students and faculty.
“The same approaches in the past are not going to work in the future, if we are to take seriously the fact that our faculty does not come close to reflecting the demographics of the country we live in and the expertise, both lived and professional, that comes with those demographics,” he said.
In a statement to The Crimson, HKS Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote that the Kennedy School is “continuing to pursue strategies to increase the diversity of the HKS community, as has occurred over the past few years.”
“Fostering a diverse and welcoming community is essential to our mission because recruiting and empowering the best people makes us better at what we do, because we learn more from people with different perspectives, and because we work in diverse groups and serve diverse societies,” Elmendorf wrote in an email to HKS affiliates Thursday.
Taylor J. Jones, a second-year HKS student who serves as co-president of the Black Student Union, said more attention should be paid to yield rates.
“It’s one thing to offer admission to the student; it’s another thing to ensure that a student can actually enroll in the institution and thrive there,” Jones said. “I think the Kennedy School might need to take a closer look to what some of those obstacles might be.”
Muhammad said the Kennedy School’s lack of a single tenured faculty member of Native background is “a glaring problem” given the increasing amount of work done in the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies.
“There isn’t, best I can tell, a sense of urgency about this,” he said of efforts to increase diversity in the HKS faculty. “And that’s going to have to change.”
—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.