Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Sung Kwang Oh - Story of Us

One of Harvard’s most recognized academic departments is its Government Department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As a leading political science community, the Government Department attracts talented faculty, staff, and students that have immense experience and drive to further develop the field of political science. It is home to the third biggest undergraduate concentration with around 400 undergraduate concentrators, though it has been facing declines in the past few years.

In its pursuit of producing influential political science research, the Government Department has at times neglected or slipped in properly developing the structures necessary to fully support its community members. This is evident in the recent crises that the department has faced. In early 2018, the Government Department was involved in a major scandal when The Chronicle of Higher Education published two pieces in which 18 women publicly accused Professor Jorge I. Dominguez, a tenured faculty member, of sexual harrassment and the Government Department of mishandling their complaints. Then, in September 2020, Government Preceptor David Kane was accused of running a blog that espoused racist and white supremacist ideals

With the Government Department being inundated by these structural concerns, the department put together a Committee on Climate Change in response to the 2018 sexual harrassment crisis. On the recommendations of the 2019 Final Report of the Committee on Climate Change, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Standing Committee was then established in the Government Department with the charge to proactively monitor and improve the departmental climate as well as provide resources to those who come from underrepresented backgrounds.

In light of multiple tragic events that recently occurred within the student population, the Government Department recently has been considering how to best provide support to students. One of the top considerations has been to increase avenues for students to provide input about their experience, the general Departmental climate, and the advising system. This has been of particular interest for the Government Undergraduate Office. As a result, this research project will seek to propose the creation of pathways and structures, through which undergraduate Government concentrators can express any concerns surrounding their experience in the department, departmental climate, or the advising system. This leads to the guiding research question: How can we create greater opportunities for undergraduate input in the Government Department?

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