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Black Alumni Group Demands Harvard Reaffirm Support for DEI Efforts in Letter to Garber

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A group of Black Harvard alumni demanded that the University clarify and reaffirm its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives on campus in a letter to interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 and Harvard’s governing boards.

The Black Alumnae of Harvard Equity Initiative wrote in its letter that Claudine Gay’s election as Harvard’s 30th president signaled that the University “embraced the link between excellence and diversity,” but wrote that their “joy turned to dismay as we watched Dr. Gay endure vitriol with no well-coordinated defense to counter the well-coordinated attacks.” Gay resigned in January after a tumultuous six months in office.

After Gay’s controversial congressional testimony in December, “cynical forces have manipulated the mounting number of antisemitic incidents around the country to attack the freedoms of speech and thought on America’s campuses, and to portray DEl as antisemitic and racist,” the letter stated.

A Harvard spokesperson did not comment for this article.

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The group also requested more transparency from the governing boards as they launch a search for Gay’s permanent successor.

Harvard’s 31st president search process should treat “diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential values,” according to the letter.

The group’s concerns mirror those expressed by some students and faculty in the aftermath of Claudine Gay’s presidency, with some students stating that they believed Gay was held to a different standard as president because she is a Black woman.

The Black Harvard alumni group’s letter also took aim at the plagiarism allegations that surfaced against Gay in the final month of her presidency. The allegations contributed to her decision to step down as president before the start of her second semester in the role.

“Attacks on Dr. Gay’s citation errors were tailored to undermine confidence in Dr. Gay's academic qualifications, given she is a Black woman, and were the first salvo in what some anti-DEl activists have announced is an all-out war against DEl,” the letter stated.

The letter concluded with a request for an open dialogue with the University, and a list of five action items.

The action request included a demand to support and defend Gay’s reputation, engagement in a “transparent selection process” for her successor, an affirmation of the importance of DEI on campus, an overhaul of DEI efforts to include recognized experts and a DEI task force, and additional transparency surrounding demographic data on University enrollment.

The letter requested a response from the University to its demands by March 15.

“As a global academic leader, Harvard is in the unique position to lead and exemplify the urgent need to protect and rally for diversity, inclusion, and equity for all,” the group wrote.

—Staff writer Samantha D. Wu can be reached at samantha.wu@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Summer Z. Sun can be reached at summer.sun@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @summerzsun.

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