The Class of 2018 has witnessed no small number of fundamental shifts in campus life since they arrived on campus in 2014. Teaching and research assistants, long individual Harvard employees, voted to collectively bargain with the University. Race-conscious affirmative action, long a hallmark of Harvard’s admissions process, was the subject of intensified federal and legal scrutiny.University President Drew G. Faust, who has led Harvard since 2007, announced that she would step down, and Lawrence S. Bacow was installed as her successor.
The majority of respondents have no opinion of Bacow, though the majority of surveyed seniors have a favorable view of Faust. While roughly 56 percent of voters in the April election supported the formation of the union, surveyed seniors are less enthusiastic about HGS-UAW. Most surveyed seniors support race-conscious affirmative action.
For the first time in Harvard’s history, teaching and research assistants will form a union to collectively bargain with the University. After more than a year of legal squabbling about the inconclusive results of a Nov. 2016 unionization election, eligible undergraduate and graduate students voted in April to form a labor union. In May, Harvard indicated that it will bargain with the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers, breaking from several other private universities that have refused to negotiate with newly-formed student labor organizations.
About 44 percent of surveyed seniors reported that they believe eligible graduate and undergraduate students should be able to form a union, numbers consistent with last year. Respondents who described themselves as “very liberal” were more far more likely to support the union, while conservative respondents were more likely to oppose it. Certain undergraduate teaching assistants could vote in the election.
- Seventy-four percent of respondents who identified themselves as “very liberal” supported the ability to form a union. Just 18 percent of students who identified themselves as conservative or very conservative reported supporting the union.
For years, Harvard’s race-conscious approach to undergraduate admissions has been at the center of national debate about affirmative action. But in the last year—as the federal government opened a probe into whether the College discriminates against Asian-American applicants—scrutiny has only intensified. A lawsuit that also questions whether the College’s admissions process is discriminatory against Asian Americans has progressed, with University officials taking increasingly public stances against the legal challenges.
Still, the majority of surveyed members of the College’s Class of 2018 favor race-conscious affirmative action programs. Though the ongoing lawsuit argues that Harvard’s race-conscious approach discriminates against Asian Americans, Asian respondents to The Crimson’s survey rated affirmative action at similar rates to their non-Asian peers. Underrepresented minorities overwhelmingly approve of race-conscious affirmative action.
Roughly 62 percent of surveyed seniors view race-conscious affirmative action favorably, while 14 percent view it unfavorably. Seventeen percent of surveyed seniors said they have no opinion on affirmative action.
- Fifty-seven percent of surveyed Asian students view such programs favorably. Twenty percent of surveyed Asian students view race-conscious affirmative action unfavorably.
- Seventy-five percent of Latinx and 82 percent of black students surveyed said they view affirmative action favorably.
Cambridge and campus police forces and how they interact with Harvard students surged to the forefront of campus discourse in April when the Cambridge Police Department forcibly arrested a black undergraduate. On April 13, a CPD police officer repeatedly punched the student—who was standing on Mass Ave. naked and under the influence of narcotics—in the stomach in an attempt to unpin his arms and handcuff him. Some witnesses to the arrest labeled it as an instance of police brutality.
The violent altercation spurred concerns about police use of force and the processes that led to the arrest. Students and administrators held meetings, organized protests, and circulated petitions about the incident, while University President Drew G. Faust convened a “review committee” to examine the “sequence of events” leading to the forcible arrest. While trust in the Harvard University Police Department, which directed the complaint about the student to CPD, is high among surveyed seniors, trust in the Cambridge Police Department, which forcibly arrested the student, is far lower.
Nearly 80 percent of surveyed seniors said they fully or somewhat trusted the Harvard University Police Department. About 10 percent of respondents said they did not trust the campus police service.
Roughly half of respondents said they trusted the Cambridge Police Department somewhat or fully, though 21 percent of respondents said they distrust the department somewhat and almost 9 percent of respondents said they distrust it fully.
- More than 65 percent of surveyed black students said they distrust the Cambridge Police Department.
About 60 percent of respondents reported they were “not at all confident” that the police in the United States treat white people and black people equally. Twenty-eight percent said they were “not very confident,” 9 percent that they were “somewhat confident,” and just 3 percent “very confident” that this was the case.
The 2017-2018 academic year marked a major moment of transition for Harvard: University President Drew G. Faust announced that she would step down after 11 years at the helm, and Lawrence S. Bacow became her successor.
The majority of surveyed seniors have not formulated an opinion about Harvard’s 29th president. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they did not have enough information about Bacow, and 39 percent of respondents reported having no opinion of the former Tufts president. Another 27 percent said they viewed Bacow favorably.
- Fifty-five percent of surveyed seniors said they view Faust favorably, while 23 percent of respondents reported having no opinion of her.
- Fifty-five percent of respondents also view Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana favorably, while 32 percent of surveyed seniors view him unfavorably. Eleven percent of respondents have no opinion of Khurana.
Sexual Assault and Harassment
A wave of reporting about powerful men who harassed and assaulted women published throughout the end of 2017 started a national conversation about gender politics and sexual harassment that quickly reached campus. At Harvard, University Title IX administrators reported a 20 percent increase in sexual harassment complaints in the fall. Following reports that he had harassed more than a dozen female colleagues for years, Government professor Jorge Dominguez said in March that he would retire.
More than 65 percent of surveyed seniors said that the cultural moment—often dubbed the #MeToo movement—has increased their awareness of sexual harassment.
Twenty-one percent of respondents said they had been sexually harassed during their time at Harvard, and eleven percent of respondents—more than one in 10 surveyed seniors—reported being sexually assaulted at Harvard.
- Seventy-six percent of surveyed seniors who reported having been sexually harassed at Harvard are women, and 73 percent of surveyed seniors who reported having been sexually assaulted are women.
- Of those who said they were sexually harassed, roughly 9 percent reported it to campus officials or the police. Of those who said they were sexual assaulted, 16 percent reported it to campus officials or the police.
- More than 40 percent of all surveyed seniors are somewhat or very dissatisfied with Harvard’s efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment.
While the Harvard Corporation’s decision in December to adopt a policy penalizing membership in single-gender social groups ended more than a year of uncertainty about its future, it remains as controversial as ever. The policy, which went into effect for the Class of 2021, bars members of single-gender groups from holding leadership positions in extracurricular organizations and receiving endorsements for certain post-graduate fellowships.
While the majority of respondents view final clubs, fraternities, and sororities unfavorably, just forty percent of respondents have a favorable view of the policy penalizing membership in single-gender social organizations. Roughly 47 percent—10 percentage points fewer than last year—view the policy unfavorably.
Only 25 percent of respondents have a favorable view of final clubs, fraternities, and sororities, while 55 percent of respondents reported viewing the groups unfavorably.
About 37 percent of respondents are members of an off-campus social organization, including final clubs, fraternities, sororities, and co-ed social groups.
- More than three-quarters of respondents in a final club, fraternity, or sorority reported having an unfavorable view of the penalties.
As in previous years, students continue to access mental health resources at the University in large numbers. Forty-one percent of respondents said they had sought mental health support from Harvard University Health Services during their time on campus. About 15 percent of respondents said they had accessed off-campus mental health professionals.
- About half of surveyed seniors who sought support from HUHS said they were somewhat or fully satisfied with the support they recieved there.
Nearly half of all seniors—49 percent—view The Crimson favorably. Twelve percent view it unfavorably, compared to 44 percent and 29 percent in 2017.
A majority of seniors—58 percent—view The Lampoon unfavorably. Only 17 percent of seniors have a favorable view of the semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine.