The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

Campus Politics

By Angela N. Fu

Harvard has experienced no shortage of controversy — some of which made national headlines — during the Class of 2020’s time on campus. In the past year alone, a federal judge ruled in Harvard's favor on a high-profile lawsuit centered on the College’s race-conscious affirmative action policies, students and faculty alike ramped up fossil fuel divestment activism, and the University’s graduate students launched a month-long strike to support their union’s bargaining efforts. Similarly to past years, a majority of graduating seniors supported race-conscious affirmative action, and calls for the University to divest its $40 billion endowment from fossil fuels and private prisons continued to see broad support. The graduate student union also saw its support rise, with nearly half of seniors reporting favorable views of the union.

Campus Leaders

During the Class of 2020’s time at Harvard, the University saw several major changes in its administration. University President Lawrence S. Bacow and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay both took office at the beginning of the Class of 2020’s junior year. Both have seen their favorability ratings among seniors rise in the past year. Similarly, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s popularity rose this year, with half of seniors reporting that they viewed him favorably.

  • Forty-four percent of seniors reported viewing Bacow favorably, up from 37 percent last year. Twenty percent of respondents said they viewed him unfavorably.
  • Khurana’s favorability rating rose six percentage points as 50 percent of seniors reported viewing him favorably, while 33 percent said they view him unfavorably.
  • Seniors continue to remain largely ambivalent toward Gay. Though her favorability rating rose — from 22 percent to 29 percent — nearly two-thirds of seniors said they had no opinion of her.

The majority of seniors — 54 percent — reported favorable views of former Undergraduate Council President Sruth Palaniappan ’20 and Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20, giving them slightly higher favorability ratings than their predecessors. Thirty-one percent of respondents said they had no opinion of the former UC leaders.

Affirmative Action

Five years after an anti-affirmative action group sued the University alleging the College’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants, a federal judge ruled in Harvard’s favor in October. Students across campus celebrated the victory, which marked a temporary end to the contentious lawsuit that sparked campus and national debate alike.

Though the decision was appealed earlier this year, a majority of seniors continue to report support for race-conscious affirmative action. Seventy-one percent of the Class of 2020 said they viewed the practice favorably, while 10 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.

  • Ninety-two percent of black seniors and 72 percent of Asian seniors reported favorable opinions of affirmative action. Support for affirmative action dropped among Hispanic and Latinx seniors, from 82 percent saying they supported the practice last year to 70 percent this year. Sixty-eight percent of white seniors said they supported affirmative action.


The University has declined to divest Harvard’s endowment from fossil fuels for years, leading to simmering tensions between activists and administrators. Those tensions attracted national attention last fall when student activists stormed the field in the middle of the Harvard-Yale football game, a stunt that ended with police charging 50 people with disorderly conduct. In the months since the protest, the Faculty has thrown its support behind the movement, formally voting in favor of divestment in February. Though the University remains steadfast in its refusal to divest, it announced last month that it would seek to make its endowment carbon-neutral by 2050.

As the fossil fuel divestment movement gains momentum, it has also garnered increased support. Sixty-five percent of seniors — up from 57 percent last year — believe the University should divest its endowment from fossil fuels, while 13 percent do not. Students who identified as “liberal” were more likely to support fossil fuel divestment.

An even larger majority of seniors — 70 percent — said they believe Harvard should divest its endowment from companies connected to the private prison industry. The University is currently the subject of a lawsuit alleging it has refused to investigate the scope of its investments in the prison industry.

Graduate Student Union

During their time at Harvard, the Class of 2020 witnessed firsthand clashes between the University and graduate students, who struggled first to unionize and now to negotiate a contract. The union, Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers, represents teaching and research assistants at the University including undergraduates, and first formed in 2018. Its support among seniors increased this year as 48 percent of respondents reported viewing the union favorably.

The union is currently in the midst of contract negotiations, a process that has lasted more than a year. In an effort to speed up the process, the union launched a month-long strike in December, picketing across campus in freezing temperatures. Dozens of classes and review sessions were relocated or cancelled, and hundreds of students faced delays in receiving their semester grades. Despite the turmoil, 46 percent of seniors said they view the strike favorably.

Harvard Police

Harvard University Police Department attracted scrutiny this semester after a Crimson report revealed that the department leadership faced repeated allegations of racism and sexism spanning nearly three decades. Weeks later, the department once again found itself the target of criticism after police officers physically restrained and arrested a black man in the Smith Campus Center for trespassing with what some bystanders alleged was “excessive force.” Crimson reporting later revealed that an officer involved in the arrest had previously received criticism for his use of force in two other arrests of black men at the Smith Campus Center.

Seventy-five percent of seniors said they fully or somewhat trust HUPD, down from 81 percent last year. Though Hispanic or Latinx, white, and Asian students reported similar levels of trust — around 76 percent — only 54 percent of black students said they trust Harvard police.

Sexual Assault and Harassment

As the Class of 2020 entered their sophomore year, the #MeToo movement grew across the country, exposing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against powerful men. The movement reached campus when the University launched investigations into sexual misconduct allegations against former Government professor Jorge I. Dominguez and Economics professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr. Harvard has since revoked Dominguez’s emeritus privileges and placed Fryer on a two-year administrative leave. Ninety-three percent of seniors said the #MeToo movement has increased their awareness of sexual harassment.

Last year, Harvard took part in a national sexual misconduct climate survey, which found that roughly 33 percent of undergraduate women reported experiencing some form of nonconsensual sexual contact. Among senior respondents to The Crimson’s survey, 13 percent reported experiencing sexual assault during their time at Harvard, and 20 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment.

  • Sixty-three percent of seniors said they know someone who has been sexually assaulted during their time at Harvard. Women made up 75 percent of respondents who said they have been sexually assaulted at Harvard and 81 percent of those who said they have been sexually harassed.
  • Of those who had been sexually assaulted, 17 percent reported it to campus officials or police. Of those who had been sexually harassed, 11 percent reported it to campus officials or police.
  • Just under half of seniors said they “fully” or “somewhat” trust the Title IX Office and the Office for Dispute Resolution. Ten percent said they fully distrust the two offices.
  • Forty percent of seniors said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with Harvard’s efforts to prevent sexual assault. Thirty-five percent reported dissatisfaction with Harvard’s efforts to prevent sexual harassment.

Final Clubs and Social Groups

Current seniors were the last class to be able to join single-gender social groups without penalty. Starting with the Class of 2021, Harvard’s sanctions bar members of such groups from captaining varsity athletic teams, holding leadership positions in extracurricular organizations, and receiving College endorsements for prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes.

Just under half of all seniors — 46 percent — said they view the University’s sanctions unfavorably, while 32 percent view the policies favorably. Single-gender final clubs, fraternities, and sororities see similar favorability ratings. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they view such organizations unfavorably, while 26 percent said they view them favorably.

  • Fourteen percent of respondents said the sanctions have negatively affected their desire to donate to Harvard as an alumnus.
  • Several formerly single-gender social groups have gone co-ed to avoid the sanctions. Just 8 percent of seniors who have been members of such groups said they left the group after it went co-ed.

Mental Health

Similarly to last year, 44 percent of all seniors reported seeking mental health support from Harvard University Health Services during their time on campus. Twenty-two percent have sought help from off-campus professionals, 13 percent from the recently shuttered Bureau of Study Counsel, and 10 percent from campus peer counseling groups.

  • Of those who sought help from HUHS, 52 percent reported being very or somewhat satisfied with their experience. Off-campus professionals, peer counseling groups, and the BSC all reported higher satisfaction rates at 85 percent, 68 percent, and 68 percent, respectively.
  • Fifty-nine percent of seniors reported fully or somewhat trusting HUHS, while 17 percent said they fully distrusted HUHS.

Campus Publications

Forty-three percent of seniors reported viewing The Crimson favorably, down from 54 percent last year. The percentage of seniors who view the paper unfavorably has increased by 22 percentage points this year to 34 percent. The Crimson attracted criticism from student activists last fall after it sought comment from a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson following an “Abolish ICE” rally held on campus.

Just 12 percent of seniors reported viewing the Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, favorably, while 69 percent said they view the organization unfavorably. This compares with 13 percent and 67 percent in 2019.