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John Silvanus Wilson, former president of Morehouse College, will help Harvard University become a more inclusive institution.
Wilson served as president of Morehouse from 2013 to 2017 before leaving to sit on Harvard University’s board of overseers. He take a leave of absence from the board to serve as a senior adviser and strategist on the institution’s Presidential Task Force for Inclusion and Belonging.
According to Harvard University President Drew Faust, Wilson will “serve as a point person during the presidential transition in bringing the task force report to life and ensuring its enduring impact.”
Wilson, who earned a master’s degree and doctorate from Harvard, said his job is to improve the way people experience the university.
“The assignment is to build a bridge from what the task force is saying to how we are functioning and living at Harvard. Are there things we can do? Are there programs, initiatives, practices, policies, ways of seeing, strategic thinking that we can begin to evidence here at Harvard, all of which begin to qualitatively change the way our students, staff, and faculty — everyone in the Harvard community — experience Harvard?”
He continued: “I think fundamentally this work is about getting Harvard to fulfill the fuller dimensions of its character pre-eminence. I don’t think there’s any question that we have capital pre-eminence. I am concerned, the task force is concerned, President Faust is concerned about whether we have developed as much character pre-eminence as we’re destined to have.”
Wilson is currently writing a book about Harvard alum W.E.B. Du Bois, who talked about feeling othered at the university when he attended in the late 19th century. According to Wilson, the aim of the task force will be to make sure others don’t have the same experience.
“Du Bois said he benefited enormously from the professors here. And obviously he brought a great mind here in the first place, as do a lot of people today, but he also said he found the culture at Harvard to be reflective of the problematic caste-based culture in the greater society,” Wilson said.
“So I believe that the task force that President Faust appointed is a task force that is still looking to address the same kind of qualitative aspects of the Harvard experience that W.E.B. Du Bois pointed to 130 years ago.
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