by Ray Hayes
While serving as the 11th President of Morehouse College, Dr. John Wilson did his best to create an environment open to inclusion. For more than 25 years, Dr. Wilson has advocated for a purposeful education for every human being and moved several universities forward with his vision and achievements. Recently, Harvard University hired Dr. Wilson as the senior adviser and strategist to the President for the purpose of helping to facilitate the implementation of the new Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging.
The goal of the Task Force, “is to strengthen Harvard’s capacity to pursue excellence on a foundation of inclusion by addressing four critical challenges.” Overall, the central goal of the new initiative is to increase diversity and inclusion effectively.
Dr. Wilson sat down with The Harvard Gazette to discuss the recent appointment and how inclusion and belonging is different from diversity.
Below is a snippet from the interview with the Harvard Gazette:
HG : The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging just made its final report. How is inclusion and belonging different from diversity?
Dr. Wilson: Diversity is quantitative. It has to do with the fact that there are people from different backgrounds in the environment. Inclusion and belonging are qualitative. They are about how well the different people in any given environment interact with and learn from one another.
Inclusion and belonging are built on diversity. You have to have diversity in the first place to be talking about inclusion and belonging.
So, the first goal that the task force set out has to do with diversity. It’s about recruitment and retention of people from different groups. But even though they are present, it is also clear that we have various subgroups of the Harvard population that are not benefiting as much as they should from the culture of mutual respect that is supposed to be here. And the question becomes: Is that OK? Is that who we are? There’s a really profound sense in which this entire effort is about clarifying and enriching and deepening who we are institutionally.