A Message to the Community

December 14, 2016

Dear members of the Harvard Chan School community,

In the weeks following the U.S. presidential election, many members of our community—and some who are considering joining us as new students—have raised serious concerns. People are alarmed by the combative tone of political discourse and by increasing incidents of hateful speech and violent behavior taking place across the country. Many are troubled by the increasing mistrust of the media and the rise of misinformation on both sides of the political spectrum. And many are concerned that science itself has become politicized and that public health progress may be reversed as a result.

These are deeply troubling developments, and I share these concerns. But I want to reassure our community that the Harvard Chan School is, and always will be, committed to creating a safe place for the pursuit of knowledge, for engagement with the global community, and for the celebration of diversity in all its forms.

As a community of research scientists, policy experts, and public health practitioners, we understand the power of science to create change. We value the contributions of the hundreds of international students, researchers, and faculty members who form an essential part of our community. And we recognize the violence and trauma that can result when subtle or overt prejudice is allowed to go unchecked.

We remain resolutely open to civil debate and differences of opinion, but, in the words of Harvard President Drew Faust, “We must condemn and resist hatred, intimidation, and intolerance in every form.” We must also continue, as we have for more than a century, to defend health as a fundamental human right and to promote science as a tool for shaping enlightened and effective public policy.

I know that I speak for the entire Harvard Chan School community in affirming these values.


Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty