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Harvard Presents 25th Annual ‘Town Gown’ Report to Cambridge City Officials

By Margaret A. Yin
By Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard representatives presented the 25th annual Town Gown report, detailing the University’s sustainability, diversity, and infrastructure goals in Cambridge, to city officials during a virtual Planning Board meeting Tuesday evening.

The report, submitted by Harvard University Planning and Design and Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, catalogues the University's facilities and its employee and student populations in Cambridge. It also details Harvard’s sustainability and equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives, as well as its investments and partnerships with city organizations.

The name Town Gown refers to the non-academic parts of the city — the town — in relation to the academic institutions that inhabit it — the gown. Lesley University, MIT, and the Hult International Business School also submit yearly Town Gown reports to Cambridge.

“We reflect on the nearly 400-year partnership that Harvard has with the City of Cambridge, but also consider our larger responsibility to create a campus that continuously strives toward a better future for our local community, as well as our global community,” Harvard’s report reads.

Thomas J. Lucey, Harvard’s director of government and community relations, touted the University’s six-figure investment in Cambridge RISE, a guaranteed income pilot program. He also noted the school’s recommitment of $20 million to the Harvard Local Housing Collaborative as an example of Harvard’s relationship with the surrounding city.

Lucey also said a priority for Harvard was to maintain partnerships with the Cambridge Public Schools system, even through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the shift to virtual and hybrid learning.

“Harvard’s commitments to its core programs and offerings with CPS did not waver,” Lucey said. “Harvard programs are in every CPS school.”

Sherri A. Charleston, the University’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, presented to the Planning Board about progress in promoting diversity in the hiring process for new University personnel.

“Over the course of the last year, we’ve created guidelines, trainings, resources for hiring managers that have really helped us to think about how we can create the most inclusive hiring strategy that we can,” Charleston said.

Charleston also pointed to the impending release of The Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery’s report as an example of the University “examining its history.”

Alexandra J. Offiong, the director of planning services at HUPAD, updated the board on the University’s ongoing construction and renovation projects, including the Undergraduate House Renewal program, a proposed renovation of teaching labs in the Harvard Science Center, and a plan for a new building for the Economics Depatment.

Harvard Chief Sustainability Officer Heather A. Henriksen emphasized the school’s commitment to meeting the goals of the Harvard Climate Action plan, which calls for the University to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel-free by 2050. She also said that Harvard’s sustainability approach would be formed in consultation with the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.

“Essentially, sustainable development is the vision for a healthy, thriving, and just future for all,” Henriksen said.

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