Diversity, inclusion initiatives outlined at town hall

Town Hall-Meredith Rosenthal
Meredith Rosenthal, associate dean for diversity, at the September 28 Town Hall

October 11, 2016 — A new bias incident reporting system, training programs on implicit bias, and efforts to bring more diversity to faculty ranks and the student body are some of the initiatives underway at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as the School seeks to create a more welcoming and inclusive climate for all faculty, staff, students, and researchers.

These and other efforts were highlighted at a “Town Hall on Diversity & Inclusion” that drew a large audience to Kresge cafeteria on September 28, 2016.

In opening remarks, Dean Michelle A. Williams noted that issues of diversity and inclusion represent “a very critical dimension of everything that we do. They should not be regarded as a separate activity siloed from the other missions of our School.” The audience also heard from Melissa Brodrick, ombudsperson for the Harvard-Longwood campus, who explained that she was available to discuss any kind of issue with community members, including those about diversity and inclusion.

Meredith Rosenthal, associate dean for diversity, spoke about past efforts, current initiatives, and future plans to boost diversity and inclusion at the School. Examples she cited:

  • Educational pipeline programs at the School—for high school students, college students, and college graduates—introduce participants to public health ideas and methods, with the ultimate aim of increasing diversity in the field.
  • Rosenthal and her team at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) work with the Office of Admissions to ensure that recruitment and applicant review processes are designed to identify diverse talent.
  • New “Diversity dashboards” on the ODI website feature statistics on diversity among faculty, researchers, staff, and students, as well as a breakdown of how financial aid dollars are distributed.
  • A new hotline for people to anonymously report incidents of bias will launch soon.

Rosenthal also summarized the findings of a campus-wide climate assessment conducted last school year, and said that the School was acting on important issues and concerns raised in the report.

In response to a student who asked if issues regarding diversity and inclusion can be better incorporated into the School’s curriculum, Rosenthal agreed that it’s critically important to do so, and said that she is working with the Office of Education to address the issue.

In response to another question about how to ensure that faculty are engaged with issues of diversity and inclusion, Rosenthal said that work is ongoing to train faculty to recognize and address bias—both in the way applicants are reviewed for faculty positions as well as in admissions decisions.

Karen Feldscher

 — photo: Sarah Sholes