Harvard Kennedy School, the graduate school of public policy and government at Harvard University, released its annual diversity report on Tuesday. It found a drop in the enrollment of Black students by over 50% since 2021.
There are currently 31 enrolled students who identify as Black or African American. In 2021, there were 68. This year’s number is the lowest since HKS published annual diversity and inclusion reports in 2018.
“Fostering a diverse and welcoming Harvard Kennedy School community where everyone can thrive is essential for us to fulfill our values and to achieve excellence in our mission of improving public policy and leadership,” Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf said in a release.
He noted the importance of these reports in gaining a better understanding of the demographics at HKS and renewed efforts to diversify the student population.
“The reports are crucial in our efforts to understand demographic diversity at the Kennedy School and to see where we need to improve,” Elmendorf told The Harvard Crimson.
The dean announced the formation of a new diversity task force of faculty, staff and students, which will be run by criminal justice professor Sandra Susan Smith and Assistant Dean for Enrollment Services Meredith C. Siegel. The task force’s goal is to diversify the student body while complying with the recent Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action.
Last June’s ruling means colleges and universities can no longer consider race a factor in admissions decisions. Justices ruled that affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which ensures equality between all U.S. citizens.
HKS is also mandating implicit bias training for degree program admissions readers. In a 2019 federal admissions lawsuit, a judge suggested Harvard provide admissions officers with such activity, The Harvard Crimson reported.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy, said he has noticed a significant drop in the number of Black students in the master in public policy program from his own classes, according to the student news outlet. He also noted that the new dean should make diversity a priority when they will be sworn in after Elmendorf steps down at the end of the academic year.
“I think the new dean should be as aggressive as possible to ensure that the population of the school at all levels, from administration to faculty, staff, and students, reflects the lived and professional experiences of people from every group in society,” Muhammad said.