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SEAS Inclusion and Belonging Survey Reveals Racial, Gender Disparities

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About 21 percent of respondents to a survey of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences said they have personally experienced harassment or discrimination at the school, according to data released last month.

The figure, which marks a 6 percentage-point drop from 2018, is highest among non-ladder faculty and respondents from historically marginalized racial and gender identities.

About 43 percent of non-ladder faculty respondents reported that they have experienced discrimination. Thirty-four percent of Black or African American respondents and 34 percent of transgender and nonbinary respondents reported having experienced discrimination.

The survey also found disparities based on racial and gender identity, disability status, and role at SEAS across a range of issues, including implicit bias, inclusion and belonging, and stress.

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The data was released as part of SEAS’ 2022 campus climate survey. The survey — distributed to all 2,471 SEAS faculty, students, staff, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers — garnered 604 complete responses. It is the second climate survey SEAS has conducted and the first since 2018.

The survey, which measured eight “themes” by grouping survey questions together, saw at least some improvement from 2018 levels across six categories: experiencing harassment, witnessing harassment, accessibility, experience with bias, engagement with DIB experiences, and confidence to use diversity, inclusion, and belonging tools.

Two themes — feelings of inclusion and belonging and work and family balance — stayed flat, on average, from 2018.

The survey results tell a “complicated story” but show “clear signs of improvement,” said Paula Nicole Booke, SEAS’s new assistant dean for diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

“We are definitely interested in substantial improvement,” Brooke said. “We are not going to be happy with our results. We’re always going to work to move forward and to create more consistent experiences for all members of the SEAS community.”

The most common forms of harassment and discrimination included derogatory, embarassing, or humiliating gestures and remarks; unfair comments in a SEAS work environment; and bullying by another SEAS affiliate, according to the report. Nearly 63 percent of respondents who faced harassment indicated that it predominantly came from faculty, staff or administrators.

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Among respondents who experienced harassment and discrimination, 47 percent said they considered leaving SEAS, 58 percent considered leaving Harvard altogether, and 56 percent considered discouraging others from joining SEAS.

The vast majority of respondents who experienced harassment or discrimination did not report their experiences, according to the survey. Among those who did, 47 percent indicated they were “not satisfied” with the school’s response.

Women, people who identify as an underrepresented minority, people with a disability, and LGBTQ+ individuals reported “more experiences indicative of implicit bias,” according to a comparison of mean responses.

Overall, only 25 percent of respondents reported that they “felt positively supported to encounter diverse people, ideas, and experiences through SEAS.”

Only 36 percent reported that they felt “inclusion and belonging” at the school — consistent with 2018 levels. White, male, and heterosexual respondents indicated reporting the highest rates of belonging at the school.

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This report marks the first time SEAS has released inclusion and belonging data since its historic move to the new Science and Engineering Complex across the Charles River in Allston, where approximately 50 percent of faculty and staff are now based. Sentiments about belonging and work-life balance varied based on where respondents spent the majority of their time.

Individuals who spent their time between the Allston and Cambridge campuses reported higher levels of work stress than the overall figure. Forty-three percent of respondents who spend most of their time in Allston “reported strongly agreeing with sentiments of inclusion and belonging” at SEAS, compared to 31 percent of those who work mostly in Cambridge.

Despite the pandemic, attitudes toward work-life balance remained consistent between 2018 and 2022. About 30 percent of respondents strongly agreed that they have work-life balance.

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Stress regarding work-life balance, however, varied by identity. Women, self-identified underrepresented minorities, people with a disability, and LGBQA+ individuals reported facing more stress than their peers. Undergraduates and Ph.D. students had the highest levels of work stress compared to SEAS overall.

The lowest reported work-life satisfaction was in the responses to the availability of childcare at Harvard.

SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III wrote in a letter included in the report that releasing the survey results is a “first step.” The school plans to compile further qualitative data through additional “focus groups and informational gatherings,” he wrote.

Booke, the DIB associate dean, said the conversation series will allow affiliates to “share out their perspectives,” refine SEAS’s strategic plan for DIB, and “really direct the change that the community as a whole seeks to create.”

“I really want to create a sense where everyone feels like they can be in dialogue with every other member of the SEAS community,” she said. “That’s one of the chief goals that I have in my role.”

—Staff writer Felicia He can be reached at felicia.he@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer James R. Jolin can be reached at james.jolin@thecrimson.com.

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