Task Forces Tackle Discrimination at Harvard

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Two Harvard University task forces have released preliminary recommendations addressing discrimination faced by Muslim, Arab, and Jewish students. The task force investigations were ordered by Harvard’s interim president, Alan M. Garber, PhD, following sustained tensions on campus related to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and the resulting campus protests.

“We must strengthen our ties with a sustained commitment to engaging each other with tact, decency, and compassion,” Garber wrote in a statement. “Our learning cannot be limited to purely academic pursuits if we hope to fulfill our responsibilities to one another and to the institution that is our intellectual home.”

The Presidential Task Force on Combating Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab Bias and the Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism reported that Muslim and Jewish members of Harvard’s community often experience a pervasive climate of intolerance. The reports noted a shared sense of “uncertainty, abandonment, threat, and isolation,” coupled with incidents of shunning, harassment, and intimidation.

The task force on anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias highlighted that people of color from other groups, including Black and South Asian students, also faced racism and hatred due to being allies or misidentified as Arab, Muslim, or Palestinian. The report detailed incidents where Muslim women wearing hijabs and pro-Palestinian students wearing keffiyehs faced verbal harassment, were called “terrorists,” and even spat upon.

Similarly, the task force on antisemitism pointed to the “dire” conditions faced by Israeli students, who have been subjected to derision and social exclusion. The report emphasized that discrimination, bullying, or harassment based on Israeli nationality, real or perceived, violates university policy and must be condemned and addressed with substantive disciplinary actions.

Garber announced that the university would begin a detailed review and implementation of the short-term recommendations over the summer in an effort to create a more inclusive and respectful environment for all students.

“The work ahead of us will require concerted effort. As both task forces work towards final recommendations, their preliminary recommendations offer a path forward,” Garber wrote.