The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) awarded the Centennial Medal to four of its alumni on May 27, honoring their “contributions to society as they have emerged from [their] graduate education at Harvard.”The medal, GSAS’s highest honor, was first awarded in 1989 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the School’s founding. Since that time, 100 accomplished alumni have received the medal at an event that celebrates their achievements, held the day before Commencement.Wade Davis Wade Davis ’75, Ph.D. ’86, is an ethnographer, ethnobotanist, writer, photographer, and filmmaker. Named by the National Geographic Society as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” He has traveled throughout the world, including Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Australia, Vanuatu, Mongolia, and the high Arctic of Greenland and Canada’s Nunavut Territory. A passionate advocate for indigenous societies and languages, Davis has brought the plight of disappearing cultures to the global stage, recording in print and image the great diversity of the world’s peoples.His Harvard mentor, Richard Evans Schultes, the founder of ethnobotany and the Edward C. Jeffrey Professor of Biology at Harvard, bemoaned the lack of botanists and anthropologists who could travel the world capturing important and long-held knowledge from groups on the brink of extinction. “It was my good fortune to have had Wade as my undergraduate and graduate student,” he once said. “By interest, academic training, field experience, breadth of outlook, and personality, Wade has the exceptional set of qualifications that this interdisciplinary field requires.”Robert RichardsonPhoto courtesy of Phyllis RoseAn American historian and biographer, Robert Richardson ’56, Ph.D. ’61, has written award-winning biographies of great American philosophers. After earning his Ph.D., he taught English at Harvard before joining the faculty of the University of Denver, where he published several books on myth, including the highly praised volume “The Rise of Modern Mythology, 1680–1860.” After a 25-year academic career, Richardson became an independent scholar, writing biographies of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and William James, as well as a tribute to his mentor, Harvard Professor Walter Jackson Bate.“His knowledge extends far beyond what he has written about,” said David Perkins, James P. Marquand Professor Emeritus. “His writings over the years have shown a steady development in intellectual power and in knowledge of how to write, and in his mature works he has been able to engage the interest of general intelligent readers as well as specialists in the subjects he has written about.”Louise RyanPhoto by Kent DaytonLouise Ryan, Ph.D. ’83, is head of the maths and information-sciences division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency. Ryan came to the United States from her native Australia to study statistics, eventually serving for 30 years as biostatistician at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. During her time at the Harvard Chan School, Ryan conducted research that demonstrated the power statistics holds to elucidate issues in seemingly unconnected areas — cancer, vaccinations, heart disease, environmental health. She also championed an exemplary summer program dedicated to encouraging minority and female students to pursue graduate study in biostatistics.“Louise was a terrific colleague, one of the best I have encountered in my career. She is smart, curious, generous with her time, a wonderful listener,” said David Harrington, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard Chan School. “She was that rare colleague to whom I could bring any idea or problem and be confident that I would receive invaluable advice.”Gordon WoodPhoto courtesy of Gordon WoodGordon Wood, Ph.D. ’64, is the Alva O. Way University Professor and professor of history Emeritus at Brown University. A specialist on the creation and influence of the American Republic, Wood has received accolades for his many books, including “The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787,” which won the Bancroft Prize, and “The Radicalism of the American Revolution,” which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for History. In 2011, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.As a Harvard Ph.D. student, Wood developed a dissertation in which he exhaustively studied constitution-making in the revolutionary years that revealed a distinctively American system of politics, peculiarly the product of a democratic society, a view that he continued to develop during a lifetime of research. That he would be successful seemed clear to his thesis adviser, Bernard Bailyn, the Adams University Professor Emeritus. “When I read the first chapter of his dissertation I knew at once that he was a truly gifted scholar and would make major contributions to our understanding of our national history,” Bailyn said. “And he has.”
In the half-century spanning the shift from reporters in snap-brimmed hats typing stories on Remingtons to filing on their cellphones with Snapchat, journalist Bob Schieffer has had a front-row seat for the country’s most important political events.His big break came early, in November 1963 while answering the phones as an overnight police reporter at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A woman on the line said she needed a ride to the Dallas police station. After nearly hanging up on her, as Schieffer told CBS News in 2013, “I said, ‘Lady, you know, we’re not running a taxi service here. And besides, the president’s been shot.’ And she says, ‘Yes, I heard it on the radio. I think my son is the one they’ve arrested.’ ” Minutes later, Schieffer was driving Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother to Dallas.In May, Schieffer retired after 46 years with CBS News, where he was the network’s chief Washington correspondent and at various points covered the White House, Congress, the State Department, and the Pentagon. For more than two decades, he anchored the Saturday edition of “CBS Evening News” and moderated the Sunday political roundtable “Face the Nation.” He earned numerous awards, including eight Emmys and the Edward R. Murrow Award, and is a National Academy of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee.This month, he begins a three-semester appointment as the Walter Shorenstein Media and Democracy Fellow at the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, where he will focus on the 2016 presidential election. From noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 15, Schieffer will address the status of the election campaign as part of the Shorenstein Center Speaker Series at Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Building.Schieffer spoke with the Gazette about his career, the evolution of American politics and journalism, and what he’s looking forward to during his time at Harvard.GAZETTE: Did you ever imagine life after journalism? How does it feel so far?SCHIEFFER: If somebody had told me when I was working the night police beat at The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that I’d be lecturing at Harvard, I would have thought they were out of their mind. I’m not only honored to be doing this, there’s a certain amount of humor in it. I’ve been to Harvard many times over the years, and I love to come up there, so this is going to be a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.GAZETTE: When you look back, what’s been the most satisfying work you’ve done?SCHIEFFER: The part that I feel so lucky about was when I was in the eighth grade, I decided I wanted to be a reporter. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter after I wrote my first story in the junior high school newspaper. Then I grew up and got to do that. And that is the part that I feel most thankful about. The second half of the 20th century was a very important time, and I got to be there for a lot of those big events. The stories that had the biggest impact on me were, first, the Kennedy assassination and then 9/11. I was there for both of those major events. Between those, you had Watergate and the Vietnam War. Oddly enough, most of the recognition I got in my career came after those events, and after I was 65 years old, when most people retire. I wrote three books after that, one of which was a bestseller, “This Just In.” I also moderated three presidential debates in those years. I’ve always kind of joked that if I were a racehorse, the touts would probably list [me as a] “late foot.” I kept moving around the track after most people had gone off to retire.GAZETTE: Journalism has changed dramatically from when you first started out. Is the profession better or worse now, and is the public better served or not as a result?SCHIEFFER: It’s a very hard question to answer as to whether it’s better or worse. What has happened is it’s been turned upside down and we’re still trying to figure it out about where we are, where people get their news. When I was a newspaper reporter, most people got their news from the printed press, from newspapers. The idea that, when I came to work in Washington in 1969, that a Washington Post reporter would be carrying a video camera when he went out to do an interview with somebody — no one could have imagined that. The whole idea of how we get information and how we try to explain to people what’s going on, all of that has changed. I know we can do it a lot faster, but whether we’re giving people the complete story, that’s a whole different question.GAZETTE: Now that you’re off the clock, what do you think of the 2016 presidential race so far?SCHIEFFER: Every campaign is different, and this may be the most different yet. I think we’re at a real turning point in this country. I think we’ve had a total breakdown in our political system: the way we elect people, the way we conduct our politics now. And you can see it on both sides now, Democrats and Republicans. This is not the way that we ought to be electing people, and these are not campaigns that are about what they ought to be about. I think it all goes back to the way that money has now overwhelmed our political system. People used to get into politics because they wanted to change things, or they wanted to do something. And we have too many people now who are just running to get themselves elected so they can raise some money and get elected the next time and use these congressional/federal offices as a steppingstone to bigger and better things. And it just didn’t use to be that way.I take Donald Trump very seriously now. I think he could wind up getting the Republican nomination. He keeps saying what all he’s going to change, but he hasn’t offered any solutions yet. So I don’t know where this goes.GAZETTE: Why do you think Trump has been able to grab people and defy all conventional wisdom?SCHIEFFER: I think he’s made a very good list, a wonderful catalog, of all the things that people are upset about and worried about and concerned about. He hasn’t proposed any solutions, but he has managed to make a list of things that people feel frustrated about, and I think this frustration comes from the fact that the government doesn’t work anymore. [Ronald] Reagan used to talk about the “shining city on the hill.” Well, we’ve become the town where nothing works. The IRS doesn’t work, the Veterans Administration doesn’t work, the EPA sets off a disaster in Colorado. Nothing seems to work the way it used to, and people are upset about that. He says he’s going to build a wall down along the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. How? Who’s he going to send the bill to? Does he send it to the mayor of Juarez, or does he send it to the president of Mexico? And how’s he going to collect? These are not solutions.GAZETTE: Last May, Fox’s Howard Kurtz asked you if the media had been too easy on Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. You said, “I don’t know. Maybe we were not skeptical enough.” Can you elaborate? What did reporters miss?SCHIEFFER: I don’t really think that reporters had the kid gloves on with Barack Obama, but he was new, and he was exciting, and he was a great story, and he made a great speech. And I think people didn’t question how’s he going to get these things done, how will he be at getting coalitions together, how well did he get along with people in the Senate while he was there, those kinds of questions. I think we probably should have been more skeptical, but he was such a good story.GAZETTE: Of all the presidents you’ve covered, who had the worst and best relationship with the press?SCHIEFFER: You have to put [Richard] Nixon off in a place by himself — he’s retired several trophies. But the fact was he also accomplished some very good things: the opening to China, the arms control [treaties] that he negotiated with the Soviet Union were major achievements, and you’ve got to give him credit for that.GAZETTE: He didn’t get the appropriate credit at the time?SCHIEFFER: I don’t think he did. But the fact is he did some important things in foreign affairs; he just didn’t know very much about the Constitution.Jimmy Carter had a very, very difficult time with the Congress. He flooded the Congress. He came in with a lot of ideas, some of which were quite good. But in the beginning, he didn’t have a chief of staff, and he didn’t set priorities, and he just overwhelmed the Congress, and they didn’t know which things he thought were the most important. And so, as a result, he didn’t get very much done. The Camp David peace accords were extremely significant, the most important legislation or agreement of this century in regard to Israel because it removed Egypt as the main opponent and threat to Israel, and that’s a big deal.I think in, retrospect, Reagan turned out to be a better president than I thought he was when he was president, because he wasn’t solely responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union by a long shot, but he forced them to spend more than they had to spend on defense, and their whole economy collapsed. So I think you have to give him credit for that.Lyndon Johnson, who made an enormous mistake about Vietnam, was probably, in retrospect, the one who knew the most about the government and how to make the government work. The ’64 and ’65 Civil Rights bills were remarkable pieces of legislation, and I think only now are we beginning to give him the credit that he deserves on that.GAZETTE: Wasn’t his relationship with the press pretty testy?SCHIEFFER: It was testy, but he knew how to work the press. He would deal directly with reporters. I mean, if he didn’t like the story, he would call them up and he would tell them. And he dealt the same with the Congress. But he got a lot done. Some of the reporters liked him, and some of them didn’t. He knew the issues, and he knew who was important and what you had to do to get something passed. And he did that time and time again.The person who had the best relations with the press was Gerald Ford when he came in, before he pardoned Nixon. After he pardoned Nixon, his relations were never quite as good as they had been at the time. I have now come to believe, as has Bob Woodward, that pardoning Nixon was the right thing to do. But I can remember, I was the White House correspondent when that happened, and I was absolutely furious. I just couldn’t understand why he did it. And I’ve now come to think he probably did the right thing. If they had put Nixon on trial, the country would have come to a complete stop for two years.GAZETTE: You covered Carter’s campaign and then his time in the White House. Do you have a favorite story from those days?SCHIEFFER: His brother Billy, who owned this gas station down there, he was a true character. He was crude, but he could be kind of funny. So his daughter gets married, and they invited me to the reception. I didn’t get invited to the wedding, but I showed up at the reception. Billy had worn a yellow tuxedo for the wedding, so he was there, and they had all the gifts out in the garage. Out in the backyard, they had this rowboat filled with “Billy Beer.” Billy had gotten his own brand of beer, and it was out there on a rope. And if you wanted a beer, you reached down and pulled the rope and pulled the boat over to the edge of the pool and got yourself a beer. It was truly a wet bar [laughs]! The great thing about being a reporter is you get to go places and see things and talk to people that regular people don’t get to do — and I truly lived that.GAZETTE: In “This Just In,” you talked about an important early mentor, “Phil the Hat,” a colleague who showed you the ropes and taught you some of the key unspoken rules about being a good journalist. What’s your “Phil the Hat” advice to today’s young journalists?SCHIEFFER: Get a hat [laughs]. My advice to kids is show up on time, and on time in journalism means getting there early. Do a little preparation. People always appreciate it when you have done a little work to get ready for the interview. And ask obvious questions. The biggest mistake that most young reporters make is they say, “Oh, I know what he would say if I asked him that question.” Every time in my life that I have assumed that I knew what somebody was going to tell me, somebody else asked him the question, and it made news. A reporter’s worst enemy is assuming you know what the answer is going to be so you don’t ask the question. Or you’re afraid to ask the question because you think, “Well, the person will think I’m dumb.” You never know what somebody’s going to tell you until you ask them. And most of the time, they’ll say just what you thought they were going to say, but the one time you don’t ask them is the one time they had something you weren’t expecting.GAZETTE: What will your focus be at the Shorenstein Center?SCHIEFFER: My theme is going to be this breakdown of our political system, the way we go about electing people now, the influence of money, and how that’s changed things. I don’t know the answers. I’m hoping that somebody will come up with some answers about how we can change this and make it better. That may be a long time coming, but we’ve got to do something. We cannot remain a superpower if we continue to operate the government the way it’s now being operated, where we can’t make decisions on anything, where we shut down the government at a moment’s notice because somebody’s ideology has gotten in the way. This has got to end if we’re going to continue on.This interview was edited for length and clarity.
When Cambridge Rindge and Latin School art teacher Melissa Chaney brought her students to the nearby Harvard Art Museums this spring, the teenagers weren’t the only ones learning something new. As part of a Graduate Student Teacher internship, seven master’s students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE) gained hands-on experience by designing lesson plans for a series of class visits to the museums.“One of the big draws of the program for me was the opportunity to connect with young people in the community,” said Jessica Magyar, GSE ’17, who partnered with Chaney’s intermediate-level painting class during the spring. “I’ve been interested in developing programs for and alongside youth. It’s not just about creating lessons, but about how to incorporate youth voices to produce programs that are meaningful and relevant to them.”Like the other student teachers in her cohort, Magyar completed an intensive, year-long internship at the Art Museums during the last academic year. The grad students were selected for their experience in working with high school students — either in museums or in classrooms — and their interest in exploring innovative approaches to object-based teaching. They were assigned to classes that ranged in subject from American and world history to English to studio art. Five Rindge and Latin teachers also participated in this year’s program.The grad students made a number of visits to CRLS to introduce themselves and the Harvard Art Museums and get to know the students in their classrooms. They also planned lessons and led a series of visits to the museums that complemented the students’ classroom work, which added the crucial dimension of deep engagement with original artworks.“Because Rindge and Latin classes visit multiple times over the course of the semester, the students are able to build the museum literacy skills they need to make those visits more than just field trips,” said Correna Cohen, a fellow in the museums’ Division of Academic and Public Programs, who oversees the program alongside David Odo, director of student programs and research curator for University collections initiatives. “Rather than simply coming to look at art, students are analyzing it and incorporating it into their learning in an active way,” Cohen said. A CRLS student stands before Camille Pissarro’s “Mardi Gras on the Boulevards,” which inspired her pieces. Ruth Albert-Lyons (center), a CRLS junior, displays her piece inspired by environmental issues. Seeds of inspiration Concentrating on object-based teaching under Odo and Cohen and student-guided pedagogy (sparked in part by the GSE courses “Partnering with Youth in Educational Research and Practice” and “Learning, Teaching, and Technology”), Magyar tailored her lessons to the Rindge and Latin students’ passions and curiosities. By polling the class early in the semester, she learned that the students wanted to explore gender relations, social justice, and environmental issues, and she kept those topics in mind as she planned their museum visits.“I tried to create frameworks for each lesson, but to allow students the freedom to explore, find things that interested them, and create their own work and understanding,” Magyar said. “Students had said early on that they didn’t necessarily want to come into a museum and hear four mini-lectures on four objects or gain a lot of information through a more traditional pedagogy or method.”Although they studied a diverse selection of objects, works in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries and East Asian Art galleries proved especially meaningful to the students, Magyar said. Each visit was different, with activities that engaged technical and critical thinking skills. During one visit, Magyar gave the students an “object remix” assignment: Find a work of art that speaks to social justice, and then remix it in a sketch that put it into the context of 2017.“I’ve never had an art class like this before,” said Zane Goodnow, a Rindge and Latin senior. “We had a lot more freedom to do what we wanted.”The final assignment was to reinterpret a work in the museums’ collection. Caroline Daley, a junior, used the opportunity to explore representation. The museum visits had made her realize that historically people of color weren’t well represented in portraits or other forms of Western art.“That was not something I wanted to complain about, but something I wanted to shift,” Daley said. For her final project, she filled a large canvas with Samoan tattoo designs, to reflect her mother’s heritage, and a portrait of a Polynesian woman. Like the work she was interpreting, a painting by Jasper Johns made up of two canvases, her piece was split down the middle.Exhibition-ready worksAs the semester came to an end, the students made one last visit to present their final projects near some of the original art that inspired them. Their projects are now receiving a public reception: They’ll be on display in the Gutman Library gallery in an exhibition titled “Wall to Wall” until Aug. 30.Chaney said the formal display of the students’ art “made the learning so authentic for the students. It took it beyond the classroom and connected it to the art world at large. Jessie’s lessons engaged the students in some deeper thinking and concepts, and I think our minds have been opened in new ways from our visits.”Another, more practical takeaway for the Rindge and Latin students, she said, has been learning that they can use the Art Museums as a resource. (Cambridge residents, as well as those under 18, are admitted for free.) “I really love that a couple of students have already visited on their own. It’s there for them to access if they need inspiration. They can sit down with a sketchbook and look at a work more carefully, or go there to decompress.”Odo said he was impressed by how both sets of students became “empowered to, in effect, co-create the program. It has been tremendous to see the museums function equally well for students of all levels as a place of creative exploration and learning.” Caroline Daley (right), a CRLS junior, explored her heritage with a portrait of a Polynesian woman overlain by Samoan tattoos. A CRLS student presents his final project in front of its inspiration: Albert Bierstadt’s “Rocky Mountains, ‘Lander’s Peak.’” For their final projects, the CRLS students presented their pieces in front of the artwork that inspired them. All photos by Matthew Monteith
Sarah Winn’s dream of becoming a teacher came true at Harvard, which she attended with help from the University’s generous financial aid program. She is far from alone. Last year Harvard set a financial aid record, distributing $414 million in grant assistance to students across the University.“There’s no way I would have been able to go to Harvard if it was not for financial aid. Finances were a huge factor in my college decision,” said Winn ’14, who now teaches English to 10th-graders at Cristo Rey Philadelphia, a private high school serving low-income students. In college, Winn also became a certified teacher through Harvard’s Undergraduate Teacher Education Program, an initiative, like financial aid, that is backed in part by the University’s endowment.But officials in higher education fear that success stories such as Winn’s could be threatened by congressional lawmakers’ plans to overhaul the federal tax code. In an effort to pay for $1.5 trillion in proposed tax cuts included in a bill unveiled Thursday in the U.S. House, Republican leaders proposed a 1.4 percent tax on the charitable endowment earnings of private universities that have endowments larger than $100,000 per student.Education experts argue that such a tax proposal threatens both financial aid and research and reflects a common misunderstanding of how charities and endowments work. They say the tax would undercut critical research funding and weaken key financial aid programs that support students for whom college would otherwise be unaffordable. Annual proceeds from Harvard’s endowment, for example, form the largest source of revenue that funds the University’s operations — from undergraduate financial aid to faculty salaries and labs, thereby enabling Harvard to achieve its teaching and research mission.Experts say that endowments, instead of being giant checking accounts in which nonprofit institutions hoard cash, are made up of hundreds or thousands of individual gifts, the value of which is required to be maintained at inflation-adjusted levels in perpetuity. Universities like Harvard only can spend a portion of the annual investment proceeds, and only on the purposes designated by the original donors. Universities are public charities and are tax-exempt because of their educational mission. The congressional proposal for the first time would impose taxes on an operating charity.Experts across the country voiced their concern over the proposed tax.Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities, which represents 62 leading U.S. research universities, praised congressional efforts to simplify the nation’s tax code but warned of the harm that this new tax on educational institutions could cause.Harvard scholars, administrators, and alumni echoed those fears.“In the current environment of low returns, Harvard’s endowment is fully stretched supporting the teaching and research mission of the University and meeting the financial needs of our students,” said John Y. Campbell, Harvard’s Morton L. and Carole S. Olshan Professor of Economics. “Taxation of endowments would jeopardize those activities, both here and at other universities.”Harvard President Drew Faust expressed concern that taxing endowments would harm students and faculty and could impact critical programs and initiatives.“Taxing college and university endowments would have devastating effects on students and faculty,” said Faust. “Harvard’s endowment is what fuels our excellence, our affordability for students of modest means, our commitment to discovery, and our impact in the world. This measure would disadvantage universities in the charitable sector, and — in targeting universities — weaken the nation’s strongest contributors to medical cures, economic innovation, job creation, scholarship, and access to higher education for students of all economic backgrounds who will shape our future.“Harvard’s endowment is not locked away in some chest,” Faust added. “It is at work in the world. Endowment proceeds fund nearly 40 percent of the University’s operations, with nearly a quarter spent directly on financial aid. The balance funds labs, professors, and libraries — and helps enhance affordability for students. A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students, and faculty. We will continue to work assiduously to make clear why this would be such a destructive measure.”Much of the research conducted at Harvard is aimed at the world’s most-pressing challenges. Its endowment, for example, is an important source of funding for the new Data Science Initiative, a University-wide program that supports efforts in which researchers produce and analyze information, including massive data sets generated from science, engineering, social sciences, and medicine. By applying the theory and practice of statistics and computer science, the initiative aims to make processing and understanding vast quantities of data possible.Rick McCullough, Harvard’s vice provost for research, said, “Endowment funds combined with an important gift enabled us to launch the Data Science Initiative.”More than half of Harvard research involves the life sciences and carries important implications for the health and future of many people, including through advances in therapeutics and the ability to treat diseases, said McCullough. He said taxing the endowment would add “another hindrance to people’s ability to do their research.”“It means there would be fewer people working on these problems, and the pace at which discovery is made will be slowed. One could argue that that’s fine, but on the other hand if you look at what other countries are doing, they are doubling down on their research support. China in particular is becoming increasingly more competitive because its investment in research and development has skyrocketed, while the United States has been slowly decreasing. That translates into discovery, which then translates into economic and technological competitiveness for our country.”Harvard alumni have played a critical role in helping to build the University’s endowment. In 2014, philanthropist Kenneth Griffin ’89 gave $150 million to Harvard, principally to support its financial aid program. That gift benefits hundreds of undergraduates every year.“It is extremely important that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to challenge themselves, learn to solve complex problems, and ultimately better our world,” Griffin told the Gazette in 2014. “My goal with this gift is to help ensure that Harvard’s need-blind admission policy continues, and that our nation’s best and brightest have continued access to this outstanding institution.” Griffin described the gift as “an investment in the next generation of leaders as we continue to break down barriers to an outstanding education.”Looking back at her own path through Harvard to teaching, Winn said realizing that she could graduate without a mass of debt influenced her career choice, and she now can pass along her good fortune to others.“Certainly I would have been forced to think more critically or make different decisions about what teaching jobs I was able to look for and accept if I had more loans than I do now,” said Winn. “It would have narrowed places that I could have applied for teaching jobs, and potentially the ability to teach.”Harvard’s financial aid “was extremely important and a huge benefit to my life.”
Men need to take greater responsibility for creating a more equitable culture and for helping move the conversation well beyond heterosexual harassment and assault to include broader, fundamental reform of institutions, education, and justice, said Thompson.“The movement for women’s equality that we need — and that I believe would have long-term traction — is one in which the dignity and rights of all human beings are honored, one that insists on an anti-racist politics, and that doesn’t tolerate structural sexism,” she said.The power of culture in a culture of powerDespite differences of degree and detail in their behavior, at the heart of the accusations against well-known men — from television host Charlie Rose and actor Kevin Spacey to rap mogul Russell Simmons and star chef Mario Batali — is an abuse of power, analysts say.“What gives men any sense that they have permission to do this? It’s hard for me to conclude that it’s anything different [than] just a basic disrespect and disregard for women and their boundaries,” said Robin Ely, the Diane Doerge Wilson Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (HBS). With that broader cultural message often a norm, it’s not surprising that workplaces become infected by such attitudes, since men call most of the shots at work.The recently accused men all have tremendous authority in their fields, and the ability to use their star power to coerce less-powerful women and men into harmful situations and later to push them toward silence. So is a corporate executive likelier to sexually harass than a bus driver is? Though that’s not entirely clear, there’s ample research in social psychology to suggest that power has wide-ranging corrosive effects on both cognition and behavior.,Studies of power dynamics show that high-powered people are more likely to take risks, to focus on rewards while ignoring possible failures, and to be overconfident in not only the likelihood of success, but in their own judgments, opinions, and skills. Power leads people to be more optimistic about outcomes and to believe that they can exert greater control over outcomes than they actually can.Research also says that people in power are more likely to cheat and lie, are better at it, and are more likely to objectify others. Having power directs a person’s attention away from the interests of others and allows them to focus on themselves. In addition, the powerful generally have far greater financial and legal resources to protect themselves from reprisals for their bad behavior. “What gives men any sense that they have permission to do this? It’s hard for me to conclude that it’s anything different [than] just a basic disrespect and disregard for women and their boundaries.” — Robin Ely When allegations of serial sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein broke in October, they triggered a cascading national reckoning over sexual harassment and assault in the workplace and beyond. In the weeks since, women have leveled charges against many high-profile men in entertainment and media, business and politics. As the accusations continue to erupt through the burgeoning #MeToo social media movement, many observers are wondering if the nation is finally beginning to deal with gender inequity.Recognizing inappropriate behavior as harassment was a radical concept in 1979, when activist and attorney Catharine MacKinnon published “Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination,” a groundbreaking book that tackled sexual discrimination in the workplace head-on. Seven years later, MacKinnon was co-counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized such harassment as a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School tells the Gazette she is “inspired by the brilliance, heart, and grit of all the survivors who are speaking out and reflecting on their experiences of sexual violation, and being listened to.” And she said the downfall of so many powerful men is stunning, “especially given decades of stonewalling and recalcitrance and siding with abusers.”To gauge the sweep of the emerging movement, the Gazette in recent days interviewed University scholars across a range of disciplines, asking them to assess the repercussions and reactions that are redefining the sexual landscape and to explain how society might change in the process. Here are their thoughts on some key aspects.The power of narrative in the post-Weinstein eraWhy did the Weinstein story open the floodgates to a movement when similar revelations about comedian Bill Cosby, Fox News chief Roger Ailes, and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump did not?Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, said she suspects the response is a combination of women simply having “had enough,” along with the celebrity of many of Weinstein’s accusers, including actors Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, and Angelina Jolie. Their status drew widespread attention to the issue, but it’s a “frustrating fact” that famous women were deemed more credible and were more readily heard than the mostly unknown accusers of Cosby or Trump, Lipinski said.“For all those women working night shifts in hospitals or stocking things in grocery stores or working in a lot of industries where there is more anonymity and not the same level of public scrutiny or, in many cases, fame, it must be pretty frustrating to feel that your complaints are not being taken with similar seriousness,” she said.,Anyone’s personal story can prove a powerful tool for change. The #MeToo movement has inspired countless women, and some men, to share their experiences with sexual assault or harassment.Historian Tim McCarthy isn’t surprised at the outpouring. Narrative has been a unifying and mobilizing force through history, said the director of Culture Change & Social Justice Initiatives at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).In the first half of the 19th century, slave narratives — stories that bore witness to the brutality committed against people treated as property — “were incredibly powerful in terms of moving public opinion of a culture that was increasingly literate and increasingly divided” over abolition, said McCarthy, who lectures on history, literature, education, and public policy. Similarly, the violent images that filled newspapers and American TV screens during the Civil Rights Movement a century later brought entrenched racism into vivid, visceral relief for audiences outside of the South, he said.In recent decades, the stories of gay men and women eager for the same rights and protections afforded heterosexuals have helped advance the LGBTQ movement and the recognition of same-sex marriage.“All of these movement moments that changed hearts and minds and moved a nation in the direction of justice have been rooted in storytelling,” McCarthy said.,Centuries of untold storiesFor centuries, women have struggled with sexual harassment and abuse at work and at home. But often they have had to forgo battling against it or telling their stories to make other gains, said Phyllis Thompson, a cultural historian and lecturer on studies of women, gender, and sexuality.In the 1800s, suffragists were reluctant to talk about sex crimes of all kinds, in part because the topic was considered “indelicate.” In addition, “to have a discussion of sex crimes in the workplace requires that one have an understanding that all genders legitimately belong in the workplace, and that was just simply not the case in the 19th century. There was no sense of a right for women to have workplace treatment on a par with men,” Thompson said.In the end, Thompson said, even suffragists like Lucy Stone, who complained of “crimes against women,” dropped the divisive issue so they could focus on establishing a right-to-vote platform that would have “mass buy-in.”Second-wave feminists concentrated on securing equal pay for equal work and on access to jobs typically reserved for men. “There was so much initial focus on making sure issues of access to work were resolved, it took a while before people started having the wherewithal to tear apart routine sexist practices within the workplace,” said Thompson, who teaches the College course “The History of Feminism: Narratives of Gender, Race and Rights.”The second-wave feminists opposed sexual assault at home and on the job and helped push through an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited gender discrimination in the workplace.Pivotal texts on sexual misogyny, such as Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 “Against Our Will,” moved the topic of sexual assault and rape further into the national discourse. “[Brownmiller’s] argument, that the threat of sexual abuse is a tool of domination, was important for this moment,” said Thompson. “It was a crucial piece of theoretical thinking for the second wave.”,As to the current moment and the countless stories of harassment being told online and in person, Thompson said she hopes they will produce lasting change, but she worries about diversity. “Insofar as what some call third-wave feminism has been broadly critiqued for the individualism of its politics (‘To each her own feminism’), the #MeToo moment is a kind of corrective in that its presumptive ethos is one of solidarity,” she said. “But, unless feminists (and the media, and the national audience) start doing a better job of highlighting and listening to the voices of people who have been doubly marginalized, such as women of color and those of lower socioeconomic status, there will be important limits on what can be accomplished.” “The movement for women’s equality that we need — and that I believe would have long-term traction — is one in which the dignity and rights of all human beings are honored, one that insists on an anti-racist politics, and that doesn’t tolerate structural sexism.” — Phyllis Thompson Francesca Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at HBS, studies why dishonesty and other unethical behavior persists in organizations. She has found that people who are serially dishonest often behave unethically, feeling little or no guilt when they can convince themselves that what they’re doing isn’t immoral.“For years, I’ve explored the gap between people’s actual dishonest behavior and their desire to maintain a positive moral self-image. To explain this apparent gap, my research illustrates how even subtle forces divert us from our ‘moral selves’ … and that even good people often engage in behavior that violates their own ethical goals,” Gino said in an email exchange.Gino’s work suggests that creative and innovative people are more likely to be “morally flexible” because they can create rationales that shift how they view and justify unethical actions. In a series of experiments involving advertising agency workers, Gino’s team found that a creative mindset was a better predictor of dishonesty than intelligence. In addition, people who act unethically often rationalize their behavior afterwards — or forget it entirely — and so are more likely to repeat it.“This work helps explain why unethical behavior is so pervasive in organizations and in society more broadly,” she said.The different ways that men and women tend to handle power may account for why so many male industry titans have been accused, and almost no women leaders so far. Gino’s work shows that men tend to unconsciously associate sex and power more readily and frequently than women do, and that men who link the two are more likely to use coercion to get sex, she said. One study found that such men are also more likely to say they would sexually harass a woman in a hypothetical workplace. Other research found that powerful men often inaccurately convince themselves that others are more sexually interested in them than they are, prompting them to act out.But high-status men are not always the bad guys. When insecure, low-status men suddenly acquire power, such as in the tech world, they are more likely to take advantage of that newfound power and be sexually aggressive than high-status men are, according to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.,HBS’ Ely, who studies gender relations and power dynamics within organizations, says that for women of her era, sexual misconduct in the workplace was an ugly fact of life with no clear remedy.“We entered the workforce long before sexual harassment was very well understood. I know for myself, with the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, that’s when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, I’ve been sexually harassed.’ I’d never really thought about it that way; it was just kind of an annoyance. But then I became more aware of it.”Companies traditionally act slowly, if at all, on sexual harassment and misconduct charges, so Eugene Soltes, the Jakurski Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at HBS, said he has been surprised at how quickly firms such as Amazon Studios and NBC have removed top executives or franchise talent like Matt Lauer, the former “Today Show” host.Some businesses deserve credit for decisive responses that can minimize the reputational harm such cases can inflict, Soltes said. But many others often contribute to unwanted sexual behavior in the workplace either by protecting accusers with settlements or by failing to take basic early steps against misconduct before it becomes untenable.Employees caught embezzling or committing other financial crimes typically face swift prosecution or lawsuits from employers or investors, which leaves a civil or criminal paper trail for future employers, said Soltes, who studies white-collar crime. But with sexual misconduct, the circumstances surrounding an employee’s termination often remain shrouded in secrecy long after the accused has moved on. Cases are often settled in-house or in arbitration, where there is no obligation of public disclosure, and parties often sign binding nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that mean neither the accuser nor the accused can discuss what happened. Although companies could reveal that former employees were let go for sexual misconduct during a reference check by other firms, Soltes says they rarely do.“There’s no explicit law that would prevent Employer A from telling Employer B ‘The reason we fired this person is there were three allegations of misconduct against him.’ But that would set them up for potential defamation suits [or] some potential [legal] issue,” said Soltes. “So what do firms do? They say ‘We can’t comment.’ That’s something that allows serial perpetrators to effectively move around, which you don’t see with other kinds of misconduct.”Soltes said that while recent media coverage has focused on the fall of powerful and high-profile figures, sexual misconduct at lower levels of the workplace is widespread.“It’s not explained by one or two executives at each firm. That doesn’t make sense” given data showing that a majority of women report that they have experienced some form of sexual assault, harassment, or other sexual misconduct, he said. Everyday comments, gestures, or looks from colleagues are a “gray area” of mistreatment that falls short of a crime but is nevertheless unwanted and is, over time, corrosive.“It’s amazing to see how men get this notion of consent: ‘If no one says it’s wrong, it means someone is consenting to it.’ That seems to be what’s happened,” said Soltes.“It’s going to be a difficult next phase for many men, recognizing that you’re not necessarily Harvey Weinstein or some of these people doing truly, truly egregious things [but you are still making women uncomfortable],” he said. “I think, frankly, many of the men engaging in that behavior are probably overall reasonable, well-intentioned individuals who just simply don’t see the consequences of their actions, and things that they might think are compliments are actually not interpreted that way.”,Journalism has played central roles, good and bad, in the public reckoning that has followed the Weinstein exposé. The media has been the vehicle by which investigations into longtime rumors, reports of accusations or secret settlements, and first-person testimonials were made public. But journalists have been also prominent among those accused.A-list show hosts, reporters, editors, and executives at marquee news outlets have been fired over allegations of sexual behavior ranging from boorish to assaultive. Michael Oreskes, National Public Radio’s senior president of news; Mark Halperin, an NBC political pundit and author; and Ryan Lizza, a New Yorker reporter and CNN analyst, have been let go. The behavior and reaction to it appears partly an offshoot of the profession’s longstanding culture of “ritualistic hazing” and “tough love,” said the Nieman Foundation’s Lipinski, former editor of the Chicago Tribune.“You come into a newsroom and you’re young and inexperienced … you’re thrown out on an assignment, you’re put into a situation you may not have dealt with before, and you’re at the mercy of more-skilled editors and higher-ups” for both guidance and future assignments, she said.Long term, news outlets ought to make gender discrimination and sexual misconduct a more integral part of their everyday coverage, rather than focusing on these issues episodically, Lipinski suggested. They also should hire and elevate more women to power, and end the use of confidential arbitration agreements in TV news employment contracts.“I’m not impatient for the quick fixes,” she said. “I’m impatient for fundamental change … a more equitable management division [between men and women], and cultural changes. That is going to take a little time, and anyone who thinks there’s a pill we can give everybody to fix this overnight is being naïve.”Cultural historian Thompson said she would like to see the energy of change focus on “something we haven’t tried yet”: ensuring that women are proportionally represented in positions of authority across society.“But in the meantime, if you wonder whether this thing you’re about to say or do may be offensive: a) maybe don’t do it, and b) ask a colleague,” Lipinski suggested. “Have an open conversation. In newsrooms, asking questions is a really tried-and-true and highly respected form of engagement … In some ways, we can make this more complicated than it is. I think we know what to do. I don’t think people are that confused.”Many abuse cases display a similar power dynamic in how men respond to their accusers, a pattern defined by Jennifer Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon who studies the impact of interpersonal violence and institutional betrayal on mental and physical health, behavior, and society. Freyd developed the term DARVO, which stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.”That scenario has played out in courtrooms and boardrooms for decades, as attorneys and executives have repeatedly turned to a “nuts and sluts” defense to cast doubt on accusers, said Diane Rosenfeld, a lecturer at Harvard Law School whose courses include “Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice.”“When you take a higher view of everything that’s going on, a meta-analysis, you can see that that is absolutely the way that defense works. Anytime somebody comes forward, there’s an attempt to discredit her,” said Rosenfeld. “If you look back to the Anita Hill case and her accusations against Clarence Thomas, the attorneys defending Thomas were absolutely employing the ‘she’s a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty’ tactic to break down Hill’s claims.“I am really hoping this is our moment where women don’t allow that and don’t discredit one another. Finally, all of these extremely credible women with proof have come forward and more are coming forward every day. And I think we need to believe women at least as a starting point to investigating these cases.”Moving toward meaningful changeThough the scope of the problem is staggering, there are lessons to take from this moment of reckoning. Harvard scholars offered up an array of suggestions for how to cope with and move forward through the ongoing wave of revelations.Dealing with emotions can be an important first step. How to manage our feelings when confronted by ongoing press reports of sexual assaults and allegations is complicated, challenging, and charged, said Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, director of McLean Hospital’s College Mental Health Program and an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School. Victims, perpetrators, and those who feel complicit by their silence or simply stunned by revelations about people they know will cope differently. But common frameworks can help guide those struggling with a range of difficult emotions.Parsing the language is one place to start. Instead of saying “moving on,” Pinder-Amaker suggests the term “moving through” as a way to think about navigating the emotional terrain as revelations continue. She also suggests looking to theories of grief that encompass emotions such as shock, denial, anger, sadness, even bargaining or the urge to strike a deal to “make this all go away and not be the nightmare I just woke up to,” that are common when people face the death of a loved one or friend.“Those are very real, typical and expected feelings associated with a grief reaction and tremendous feelings of loss. These are all part of the stages of grieving, and they are perfectly valid,” said Pinder-Amaker. “Often it’s reassuring just to know these feelings are typical, they are to be expected, and you might feel a range of these within a day and that’s OK.”Sharing feelings with a trusted friend or family member and taking a break from the 24-hour news cycle are other useful coping strategies, she said. And knowing sexual assault statistics, such as the fact that a majority of sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances and that most of those go unreported, can help promote awareness and ease fears.“Believing these facts will put all of us in a better position to be empowered to take preventive action and ultimately to protect ourselves, our children, and each other,” she said.,What should businesses do? Analysts say that sexual harassment training can help but is no silver bullet. Most companies have formal policies against harassment in their employee handbooks, and many require staffers to attend classes, yet research suggests the training can be ineffective if it doesn’t address real-world scenarios or offer credible solutions. In addition, company leaders may signal to subordinates that training is a mandatory human resources hurdle to endure and then forget, rather than an important, expectation-setting mandate.“The training around sexual harassment is terrible,” said HBS’ Soltes. “There are people who grope people in elevators. That does happen. Training is not going to change that. However, that’s what training focuses on. That’s not the major problem. The major problem is people saying things that they think are a compliment when they’re not.“I think this is the next step, where firms are going to really need to think very carefully. I’m hoping as researchers we can play a part [in] thinking about how to devise the kind of training that will resonate more deeply with people, so it’s not simply legal cover but is actually trying to nudge people to treat one another respectfully in the workplace,” he said. “But I think we have a long way to go before that occurs.”Ely believes that addressing the work environment is essential. “The way I look at all gender issues in companies in general is that it’s always a problem of the workplace culture, whether we’re talking about sexual harassment or sexual assault or even just the implicit, inadvertent acting on biases,” she said.Research has found that some organizations become places where behavior that was once outrageous slowly becomes normalized, “because it’s just one thing leads to another and people feel like, ‘Well, nothing ever happens, so I’m not going to report anything,’” she said. “And once in a while, there’s a case that comes up, and then it’s like, ‘Oh well, there’s a bad apple.’ It’s not a bad apple. It’s a culture that’s giving rise to this kind of behavior and letting it persist, not necessarily consciously, but …”An important first step for companies is to bring in outside entities to assess how employees experience the culture, she said. But then it’s up to corporate leadership to make things right.“I do think it’s the responsibility of companies to look at their culture with a really critical eye to understand how does that culture differentially affect different groups of employees — because we know it does,” Ely said. “I don’t think this is an H.R. thing. It’s not something you can legislate with policy. It’s something that leaders need to take up as their own agenda, to really be invested in understanding how people experience the culture of the organization, a culture that they, as leaders, are responsible for, whether they like it or not.”That’s a tall order, in part because company leaders typically rise to the top by successfully negotiating the same workplace culture others perceive as hostile. Once in command, even if they are well-intentioned, they have only their own positive experiences and vantage points to draw from.To prevent some men from abusing their power, Soltes said, companies should stop protecting high-status offenders. “I’m hoping that part of this is a turning point for the role that senior management, boards, and attorneys play. That simply creating these watertight legal contracts and NDAs is not sufficient to protect, so to speak, the organization.”But firms also must make organizational norms clear and nip offensive behavior in the bud to create a fairer and better culture for all. “The main goal is not firing people,” Soltes said. “That’s a necessary punishment for some … but what we want to do is not have this happen in the first place. That’s what would benefit everyone most.”Government too should play a major role in curbing sexual misconduct. In Washington, D.C., a city built on power, sexual abuse and harassment is a bipartisan problem that lawmakers have only begun to address. In addition, politicians are among those implicated, including the recently announced departures of Republican Reps. Trent Franks and Blake Farenthold, both of Texas, Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, and Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.Using data to change behaviorThe Women and Public Policy Program at HKS works to identify data-driven ways to reduce gender inequality, especially in the workplace. Because many work environments — whether in offices, on factory floors, or in classrooms — were originally developed for a predominantly male population and men still far outnumber women in supervisory positions, bias against women can be built into the systems that shape who gets hired, who gets promoted, how much they’re paid, and how they’re treated.Because implicit bias is unseen, researchers are studying how to remove it from workplaces through “nudges” that help organizations operate with less gender mistreatment. A nudge can involve blind evaluations that remove demographic characteristics when reviewing resumés, helping overcome assumptions about who might succeed in a job and who wouldn’t. In addition, having men help with harassment training increases their support and understanding of its import, research has found.“It’s really difficult to change people’s mindsets. It’s much easier to change environments that make it easier for people to make the right decisions,” said Nicole Carter Quinn, the program’s director of research and operations.An initiative launched this fall, “Gender and Tech,” will bring behavioral scientists and technology researchers together to study and develop interventions to root out bias against women in recruitment, retention, leadership, and promotion in the overwhelmingly male-dominated tech world, where women routinely face discrimination and sexual misconduct, as former Uber engineer Susan Fowler chillingly documented in a blog post earlier this year.Education appears to have a central role in changing attitudes as well.The #MeToo movement has shown how sharing personal experiences can promote conversations leading to change. According to a recent Harvard survey, another kind of frank dialogue is needed, one that has parents and educators talk with their children and students about harassment, as well as about what it means to have healthy, loving romantic relationships.Compiled by Making Caring Common, an initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), the 2017 report is based on surveys of more than 3,000 young adults, including college and high school students, and aims to create a better understanding of how young people think about and develop romantic and sexual experiences. The study included information gathered from conversations with 18- to 25-year-olds, parents, teachers, coaches and counselors. According to the findings, sexual harassment and misogyny are pervasive among young people. The report suggested that such behaviors and attitudes often go unchecked because parents, educators, and peers don’t intervene.“I think it’s an epic educational failure, really a staggering educational failure,” said Richard Weissbourd, senior lecturer at HGSE, faculty director of the Making Caring Common project, and the study’s lead author. He hopes the report will act as “a real wake-up call.”,Some 87 percent of young women surveyed reported being sexually harassed. Forty-eight percent of respondents either agreed with or were neutral about the statement “Society has reached the point where there is no more double standard against women.” Roughly three-quarters of respondents said they had never had a conversation with a parent about what constitutes sexual harassment. Parents, the report said, engage in a “dumbfounding abdication of responsibility” by delegating their children’s knowledge of romantic and sexual relationships to popular culture, where song lyrics, movies, television, video games, and magazines are rife with misogynistic messages and content, and harmful notions of romantic love.The researchers found that degrading language is prevalent in school hallways and classrooms, where words like “bitch,” “slut,” and “ho” are so common that they are “part of the background noise,” said Weissbourd. The report also said that boys regularly divide young women into “good girls” and “bad girls” and binge on internet pornography.“That reinforces just about every unhealthy and degrading notion about sexuality there is. It’s the degradation, the objectification, the idea for boys that what’s pleasurable for you is pleasurable for women. The idea that women are there to service you, the sense of entitlement that it can engrain,” said Weissbourd.He said that parents and teachers need to go well beyond platitudes like “be respectful” to others or discussions of abstinence and safe sex, and instead, engage young people in meaningful discussions.Reframing the definition of masculinity, Weissbourd said, is another important step in the way forward.“Young men need to learn that there can be real courage and honor in learning how to have a healthy love relationship with somebody else — the tender, generous, subtle, courageous, demanding work of learning how to love and be loved. I really think that we’ve got to push a very different definition of manhood here.”
With regards to her inspiration for the ballet, Jackson reflects: “Representation, particularly for the black community, is something that I am deeply passionate about … I want to inspire a new generation of black ballet dancers, songwriters and storytellers by giving them characters, stories, and music that they can relate to.”“Vanity Lane” opens on Friday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. Harvard University students and members of the local Cambridge community are invited to an open dress rehearsal on Thursday, March 22. This March, the Harvard Black Community & Student Theater Group (BlackCAST) strives to challenge tradition with a brand-new production: “Vanity Lane: The Ballet.” Created by Harvard Extension School student La’Toya Princess Jackson, “Vanity Lane” is a contemporary ballet that examines the duality of beauty and self-worth with an interdisciplinary approach to exploring the world of theater, music, and classical dance. The production will occupy a two-week residency at Farkas Hall, Harvard University’s Office for the Arts primary performance space.“Vanity Lane” is a study in opposites: cutting edge electronic music with retro 80s influence, classical ballet blended with contemporary and culturally diverse choreography, and a study of modern media images told in a timeless fairy tale format. The main character ElectrKPrincess is enchanted by a spell and transported to Crystalline City, where she takes a journey down Vanity Lane and must confront and overcome three vanities. The ballet seeks to reject unhealthy media images, encourage individuality and diversity, and urge people to look behind the mask of superficial beauty to find the true beauty within.The ballet will feature choreography from Boston-based guest artist Jean Appolon and original compositions by Jared Hettrick, Gordon Williams, and Paul Sayed. As the first ballet produced by Harvard BlackCAST, the production team behind “Vanity Lane” seeks to reconstruct the narrative of classical ballet as a restrictive art form with a historically white legacy. Harvard Black Community & Student Theater Group is a non-profit, student-run theater organization dedicated to providing students of color at Harvard University with a greater opportunity to gain practical experience in live theater and giving students of all races and ethnicities the opportunity to become acquainted with performance art of the African diaspora. Past productions include “The Wiz,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Bootycandy,” and “Songs of the Harlem River: Forgotten One Acts of the Harlem Renaissance.” For more information, please visit our Facebook page.
In 1997, Judith Toensing — a sixth-grade teacher in Yuma, Arizona — wrote a note on the report card of one of her star students, 12-year-old Christin Gilmer, which included the line: “Invite me to your Harvard graduation!”Twenty-one years later, Gilmer surprised Toensing with a hand-delivered invitation to attend Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s May 23, 2018 Convocation ceremony as well as Harvard University’s Commencement ceremony, at which Gilmer received her doctor of public health degree.In an April 4 Facebook post, Gilmer had thanked Toensing for teaching her about current events, global health, and human rights. Leah Kane, director of student affairs at Harvard Chan School, saw the post and thought it was a great story. She shared it with Dean Michelle Williams, who agreed and decided to invite Toensing to attend Gilmer’s Harvard graduation, all expenses paid.The note from Toensing to then 12-year-old Gilmer on her final report card of sixth grade. Photo by Christin GilmerIn a May 26, 2018 CNN article, Toensing said that she was “shocked, flabbergasted, humbled” by the invitation. Said Gilmer, “She lit a fire in me that helping people is a powerful tool, and through education, you can better serve populations in need. I will never forget her passion for others.”At Harvard Chan School’s Convocation, Williams thanked Toensing for her important work. “You don’t just teach young people,” she said. “You inspire them, and you propel them along a path of fulfillment and service to others. Your work is what makes our work possible.”Read the CNN article: A 6th-grade teacher wrote ‘Invite me to your Harvard graduation!’ — 21 years later, the student did just thatRead an ABC News article: Woman honors 6th-grade teacher’s wish to attend her Harvard graduation, as written on 1997 report card Read Full Story
With powerful, poignant speeches from presenters and honorees alike, this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards felt more like a gospel church service-cum-rock concert than an academic award ceremony.Athlete and social activist Colin Kaepernick set the tone before an exhilarated crowd that included some 150 local high school students, declaring that people in positions of privilege and power have a “responsibility” to speak up for the powerless.“People live with this every single day and we expect them to thrive in situations where they’re just trying to survive,” said the NFL free agent who famously took a knee during pregame national anthems to protest racial injustice in America. “If we don’t, we become complicit. It is our duty to fight for them.”,Kaepernick was one of the eight laureates who received medals at Sanders Theatre on Thursday night. Others were comedian Dave Chappelle; writer and social critic Florence C. Ladd; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson; artist Kehinde Wiley; General Catalyst chairman and CEO Kenneth I. Chenault; philanthropist and Avid Partners founder Pamela J. Joyner; and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson. Eight to be honored as W.E.B. Du Bois medalists Related Noted for contributions to African and African-American history and culture The awards are bestowed by the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research for contributions to African and African-American history and culture.Ladd, the former director of the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe, donned her medal, then pumped her fist in the air and told the cheering crowd: “A takeaway must be protest, protest, protest.”,Stevenson, M.P.P. ’85, J.D. ’85, L.L.D. ’15, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, dedicated his award to “people who did so much more with so much less” and asked the audience to think of hope as “your superpower.” To the students, he made a more pointed request: “You’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things. You’ve got to be willing to do inconvenient things. Don’t ever think that your grades are a measure of your capacity.” Stevenson himself won a historic Supreme Court ruling that declared that mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.Moments of humor punctuated the call to resistance, particularly when presenter and incoming Dean of Social Science Lawrence D. Bobo recited parts of Chappelle’s famous skit “The Racial Draft.“ He called the comedian a “teller of uncomfortable truths.”,Chappelle, for his part, praised his parents, especially his mother, a professor of African-American studies. “She raised me well. I am not an uninformed person,” he said.Chappelle said he was humbled to be on stage with his fellow honorees: “You all make me want to be better,” he said. He promised another comedy special and ended his speech with a quote from favorite writer James Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time.”“God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water. The fire next time.”Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor, reflected on the critical nature of the honorees’ work in the fight for racial and social justice.Colin Kaepernick applauds at end of ceremony. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer“When we recall the dramatic progress we’ve made in this country’s struggle for civil rights, it’s tempting to remember only our long arc of progress. But we find ourselves in a new nadir in our country’s race relations,” he said, quoting Du Bois, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard.“Agitation is a necessary evil to tell of the ills of the suffering. Without it, many a nation has been lulled to false security and preened itself with virtues it did not possess.”
In the latest paper from the Harvard Chan Sustainability and Health Initiative for Netpositive Enterprise (SHINE) program titled “Work, Gender, and Sexual Harassment on the Frontlines of Commercial Travel: A Cross-Sectional Study of Flight Crew Well-Being,” researchers examined the scale and scope of experience of sexual harassment at work among male and female flight attendants.The paper was published in The International Journal of Aerospace Psychology and lead by researchers Dorota Weziak-Białowolska, Piotr Białowolski, Irina Mordukhovich, and Eileen McNeely.The data the research team examined represented the perception and prevalence of sexual harassment related to a hostile work environment among 8,700 North American (U.S. and Canada) and 1,887 United Kingdom (U.K.) flight attendants in the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study.The study team found that 26 percent of North American flight attendants and 11 percent of U.K. flight attendants reported sexual harassment, mostly from passengers, pilots, and coworkers. Furthermore, 61 percent of U.K. flight attendants experienced unwanted sexual behaviors, pointing to possible under-reporting of the sexual harassment problem. Sexually offensive behaviors received variable labeling as sexual harassment depending on gender of the victim and perpetrator profile.Sexual harassment is a potentially under-reported workplace problem for flight attendants with under-reporting resulting from gender-specific differences in individual perceptions. Understanding these differences is vital to addressing sexual harassment and the concomitant health risks. The study team’s results provide new information to guide future research regarding well-being of this understudied group of service employees.Despite public attention, sexual harassment still lacks sufficient scientific scrutiny of its context and cost. This paper sheds light on the prevalence and sources of sexual harassment relating it to gender, as well as cultural norms for acceptable behavior. This study evaluates these perceptions within a feminized workforce of flight attendants that is driven by customer service — a context likely to complicate power relationships and exposure to sexual harassment perplexed by the majority and minority gender views. Read Full Story
In this time of COVID-19 and civil unrest in America, happiness often seems increasingly elusive. Yet that may not have to be so, and, in fact, such turmoil can offer opportunities for both personal and professional fulfillment.That was the theme of an online conversation Saturday night between the Dalai Lama and Professor Arthur C. Brooks of Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Speaking from his home in Dharamshala, India, the Dalai Lama, longtime leader of Tibetan Buddhism, spoke with Brooks, HKS professor of the practice of public leadership and HBS professor of management practice, for 90 minutes in a live segment of Brooks’ HBS class called “Leadership and Happiness.” The Dalai Lama answered questions from students about their concerns and their duties in a troubled world.Connection — even as people are usually now forced to work and study separately — is the key to happiness, he said. “We need a sense of oneness. We are each one of 7 billion human beings.” Occasionally aided by an interpreter, the 85-year-old religious leader stressed that point repeatedly. Especially when faced with global crises such as the pandemic and climate change, he said, people must engage as a global community.“We can no longer say ‘my nation, my country,’ ” he said. “We should say ‘my planet.’ We have to live on this planet together.”The potential for happiness is in that connectivity. “Happiness is in the mind,” the Dalai Lama said. As individuals and as leaders, when we reach out to others, lifting them up, we experience that connection, and the resulting fulfillment brings us happiness.,Even during a pandemic, he advised, we can find peace. Science and intellectual analysis, he stressed, are vital. If health professionals advise that it is not safe to gather, we need to respect that. He said he personally has found solitude useful for meditation. But being alone should be a choice: “With technology, the oneness of people becomes more clear,” he added. “We can communicate with each other.”Isolation, he pointed out, can be largely a state of mind. “Tibet, in ancient times, was lonely but happy.” Even in the sparsely populated, mountainous country, “When one family needed some help, they could ask,” he said, relying on a strong sense of community.Now, people are clustered in big cities but often without a sense of their interdependency. “Instead of trust, there is fear and distrust,” he said. Focusing on material wealth or competition rather than on interdependency and the general good “eventually creates anger, so the person will not be happy.”Countering this outlook is within our power. He described his own travels and how, as a stateless person, he could have felt isolated and alone. Instead, wherever he was, he saw himself as part of a larger community, anywhere in the world.Pushing further for being in the world, the Dalai Lama promoted what Brooks called “the sanctity of the intellectual life.” He repeatedly returned to the need for academic rigor, even at the expense of religious doctrine. Following discussions with scientists, for example, he has let go of centuries-old Buddhist concepts, “like Mount Meru and the sun and the moon being the same size,” he said, referring to the sacred peak considered the center of the universe. “You must be realistic and analyze,” he said.,“We’re not like other animals,” he said, simply seeking sustenance or safety. “A lot of our problems are our own mental creations.” The solution, he stressed, comes in improving our educational systems to teach community and equality rather than division and difference. Science, he added, can further our understanding of our emotions and the human mind. “A lot of problems were created by the human mind itself, so the remedy also, you see, lies within the human mind. Investigate.”He concluded his talk by speaking directly to the student audience. Referring to his own status as a refugee and to the problems that his generation has left the world, he became, once again, philosophical. “Time is always moving,” he said. “We cannot change the past. The future is not yet come. What kind of future depends on the present, the younger generation — you are the key people who can create a happier future. So, please, you should not just copy what has happened. New thinking is very necessary. Please think more.”