Changing Names and Narratives

October 15, 2021

Read the full letter 

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Sherri CharlestonLast week, President Biden issued a formal proclamation declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, following a broader movement in more than 100 cities and a dozen states across the country led by Native and Indigenous Activists. Since time immemorial, Native and Indigenous peoples have occupied, cultivated, and safeguarded what is now the United States. It is important that we remember that Harvard University is itself located on the traditional and ancestral land of Native and Indigenous peoples. I encourage everyone to engage with the Harvard University Native American Program to learn more.

As author and poet Rex Lee Jim, whose work aims to revitalize the Diné language, says, “Storytelling is a collective action—a collective way of talking about values, about principals and ways of doing things together.” This month, let us take account of the stories we tell, the ways we remember, and the power of those stories to guide our actions.

In this spirit, I’m proud to share that next week, this office will add the word “equity” to our title and be renamed as the Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (OEDIB). This change more accurately reflects the focus of University leadership and this team, and is also an acknowledgment of Harvard’s Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity (AA/EEO) team joining our staff. The decision to add equity to our name was an outgrowth of our efforts to listen to and respond to community needs. Later this month we will also share a community update about OEDIB’s progress over the past year, as well as our goals and future plans.

Join us in continued community building and reflection on October 26 and 28 at Lost and Found: Community Gatherings for Grieving and Hope. University partners and OEDIB will host an on-campus and online event, as well as an online community board welcoming your stories, reflections, photos, art, or other reflections. And we are pleased to relaunch Affinity Spaces with the first fall event on October 21.

Also, this month we continue to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month and I invite you to learn more about the contributions and resilience of the members of Harvard’s LGBTQ+ community through our various campus events and resources this month. I'm particularly pleased that our community has featured ongoing events to raise awareness about transgender and gender diverse people. Please join the Harvard Medical School on October 27, as they will host an equity and social justice webinar Clinical Advocacy and Care of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth.

Harvard’s story of forward progress has not yet been fully written. I look forward to writing the next chapter of our storied history with all of you, together.

In community,

Sherri Ann Charleston
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer