Culture of Belonging

To the Harvard Chan community,

One of my most important goals as Dean is to nurture a culture of belonging  at Harvard Chan School.

That means embracing diversity in all its forms, including diversity of viewpoints. It means not just accepting, but actively seeking to learn from, people with different perspectives and life experiences.

Above all, a culture of belonging requires us to be mindful about how we engage with one another.

That has been difficult lately. This has been a painful time at Harvard, marred by division and mistrust. I have heard from some members of our community that you feel isolated, vulnerable, or stereotyped because of your background, faith, political views, or field of work or study. These accounts deeply trouble me.

I am appalled by the overt displays of racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia that I have heard about, including the hateful antisemitic cartoon posted to social media last weekend. Adding to the tension, Harvard has been roiled by sharp critiques of diversity programs and challenges to free speech. All this, at a time of rising political tension and widespread anguish about the depth of suffering in Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, and beyond.

At such a fraught moment, it may be tempting to withdraw. I urge you, instead, to engage.

Reach out. Check in. Offer support. Model kindness. Extend grace. Listen with humility. Remain open to the possibility of learning something new from everyone you meet, no matter how different your views.

This is hard work. I know that I don’t always do it right. But it’s so important to keep at it —now, more than ever. It’s how we build a culture of belonging.

Before I close, I want you all to know how deeply I believe in this community. Harvard has become a lightning rod, and I expect that will continue for some time. Please know that I will defend our values, our work, and our people.

If you’re here, you belong. Let’s make sure everyone inside and outside Harvard knows that.


Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD
Dean of the Faculty
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health