Dear Members of the Harvard T.H. Chan School Community:
It is with profound sadness that I write to you in the wake of violence over the past 10 days that has spanned the globe – from Turkey to Bangladesh and Iraq, and most recently here in the US.
The deaths of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, while in interactions with police are perhaps most troubling to many of us because they happened on American soil, because they point out the continuing, well-documented bias that exists against people of color when interacting with law enforcement, and because they were followed by the subsequent deadly sniper attacks that tragically killed five police officers in Dallas at the end of otherwise peaceful protests.
In listening to President Barack Obama talk on Thursday night specifically about the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I was struck by something he said that ties together all of these horrific acts across the globe: “…. too often we’re asking police to man the barricades in communities that have been forgotten by all of us for way too long. In terms of substandard schools, inadequate jobs and a lack of opportunity.”
Part of our role as public health professionals – and as citizens – is to shine a light on those communities that are being left behind, whose health and well-being are threatened on a daily basis by racism, war, domestic violence, a lack of decent housing, affordable health care, nutritious food, and well-paying jobs. It is this lack of basic necessities – and a lack of dignity and hope for a better life – that can ultimately contribute to the types of violence that we are seeing increasingly in the U.S. and around the world and that threatens us all.
These events are deeply troubling to me and to everyone in our community. Please join me in reaching out to those who may be feeling particularly upset and threatened. Students who may be struggling with the impact of these events may be in contact with Leah Kane and her team in Student Affairs, which is located on the lower level of the Kresge Building. For faculty and staff who may be struggling, I encourage you to contact Linda Picard in Human Resources, or Mahy El-Kouedi in Faculty Affairs. Faculty and staff may also contact Harvard’s Employee Assistance Program for additional support and resources at 1-877-327-4278 (1-877-EAP-HARV). The HMS/HSDM/Harvard Chan Ombuds Office is also always available as a resource in times of tragedy and is located at 164 Longwood Avenue.
Additionally, our Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), also located on the lower level of Kresge, invites community members to drop in on Monday, July 11th for shared reflection, to participate in letter writing to those affected by the violence, as well as in other forms of expression to help process the events of the past few days. ODI offers a space for any and all community members who would like to come together to talk.
Michelle A. Williams, SM, ScD
Dean of the Faculty
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health