Harvard Spends a Year Reviewing Its Decor, Finds Too Many Portraits of White Men

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

At Harvard, they’re out to right the wrongs of outdated decor.

A revision’s been recommended by the Faculty of Arts and Science’s (FAS) Task Force of Visual Culture and Signage.

According to the 21-member group’s near-30-page report, the “exclusion embedded in the current visual culture…perpetuates a too-narrow understanding of our institution’s past, present, and future.”

The verdict was delivered December 6th after more than a year of examination.

As noted by The Harvard Crimson, the study was commissioned in order to advance racial justice.

In September of 2020, FAS Dean Claudine Gay issued an email explaining the initiative:

How and where we memorialize individuals, events, and moments in our institutional history through imagery and symbols should reflect our core institutional commitments to truth, knowledge, and critical thinking. At the same time, they should authentically represent the possibility inherent in our present moment and encourage the sense of welcome and belonging each of us needs to feel seen, heard, and be able to thrive.

Speaking to the Crimson, Task Force Chair and Dean of the Arts and Humanities Robin E. Kelsey elevated inclusion:

“We don’t want Harvard to be a place where you have to be someone from a particular part of society with a particular background in order to feel comfortable walking around on our campus, and I think we can do much more to make this a campus truly accessible to all of our community members and our visitors as well.”

So who might be presently left out?

Well, in the freshman dining hall, 21 of 23 portraits depict white men.

The hall was pegged particularly for the probe, per Dean Robin, because “so many undergraduates” named it “a space that very much affects them and their sense of belonging…”

Harvard Magazine reiterates the pigmented perversity:

Dean Claudine] noted that among the top priorities for change are three “high-impact” spaces on campus: the Faculty Room, Annenberg Hall, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student center in Lehman Hall. These are places where the FAS community gathers; “They are also spaces,” the report said, “whose visual culture is dominated by homogenous portraiture of white men.”

Improving America’s visuals may be a growing trend.

In June, I offered “In the Battle for Inclusion, U.S. Navy Employs the Weapon of Interior Decorating.”

Courtesy of my coverage:

The war machine known as the United States Navy is fighting for our freedom — to be included. …

An Office of Naval Intelligence staffer purportedly “raised a concern about how the artwork on display throughout the [National Maritime Intelligence Center] did not represent the diversity of people serving in the Navy.” …

The new art-seeking group will confer with a historian in order to “identify…artwork from the Navy History and Heritage Command’s Navy Art Collection.”

It’s also collected works which “acknowledge the contributions of Hispanic, African, and Native Americans to our Navy and the Nation.”

Even general architecture’s getting a review:

Back to Harvard, do the images feature white men because they were central to the founding and development of the school?

Or did the university boost a bunch of blanched masculine toxicity just for kicks?

As for everyone needing to “feel seen, heard, and be able to thrive,” it’s an interesting idea.

Long ago, human beings were just running around, naked in the woods.

At some point, people paired off.

A man established his family and home.

The focus leaned toward not starving, getting eaten, or otherwise becoming deceased.

It seems to me the notion of “feeling seen” is an unnatural one, brought on by life online.

Also potentially at play: contemporary culture’s surging narcissism.

But such is life, for better or worse.

And the team at Harvard believes it can make things better.

Among the nearly two-dozen participants in the investigation: newly-appointed FAS associate dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Sheree Ohen.

Perhaps eventually, every campus will have an Office of Feeling Seen.

For now, an Ivy League icon’s getting a modern makeover so everyone feels fantastic.

That’s Harvard — a very loving place:

And for any who suspect the school’s just being anal, it wouldn’t be the first time:

-ALEX

 

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Find all my RedState work here.

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