HBS Students Raise Concern About New Dean’s Commitment To Diversity

Senior Associate Dean Srikant Datar will become dean of the Harvard Business School on Jan. 1, 2021

Students Raise Concern About HBS Dean’s Commitment To Diversity

Harvard Business School just got a new dean.

But it seems a few HBS students are expressing concern around newly-appointed Dean Srikant M. Datar’s commitment to diversity, The Harvard Crimson reports.

Datar, who was appointed dean of HBS in October, will assume office in January. He will succeed Dean Nitin Nohria, who has served as HBS dean for 10 years.

PRAISED FOR EXPERIENCE

Many in the HBS community have praised the b-school’s choice in Datar citing his decades of experience at the university. Since joining the HBS faculty in 1996, Datar has held a number of leadership positions including senior associate dean responsible for faculty recruiting, for faculty development, for executive education, for research, and currently for University affairs.

“I think, given that background, he is the best person at this time to steer the Business School in the right direction,” Burjis Godrej, an MBA student at HBS, tells the Crimson.

Moreover, some students say Datar’s experience could help increase focus in technology for HBS. During his time at HBS, Datar has helped to launch initiatives to merge HBS with Harvard’s science and technology programs including a joint M.S.-MBA program.

“I think that that might be part of a legacy that he needs to leave, where if you wanted to go into a career of technology entrepreneurship, HBS becomes the first thing that comes to mind,” Uwais Razack, an MBA student at HBS, tells the Crimson.

Missed Opportunity To Diversify

While many students praised the appointment of Datar, a select few also raised concerns around the university’s choice.

Razack says the appointment is a “missed opportunity to diversify, at least on the dimension of gender,” he tells the Crimson. “Given the atmosphere of all these discussions that we’re having here at Harvard, but just in the broader discussion that we see on the media and the news, etc., discussions about equality and balancing the playing field, it almost feels like HBS misread the mood in the room, to some degree.”

Gender and racial equity have long been crucial issues raised by HBS students over the past decade.

Just last month, HBS community members criticized Dean Nohria’s action plan for racial equality comparing it to a bad cold call in an MBA class.

‘I Was Hoping For Somebody Who Seemed To Put More Emphasis On Diversity, Equity And Inclusion’

Alterrell Mills, a Black American who graduated from Harvard with his MBA in 2016, calls Dean Nohria’s statement an “overly wordy plan” that “relies heavily on rhetorical devices and structure that skirt accountability, and fails to address past inconsistent efforts toward progress.”

Bukie Adebo, an MBA student at HBS and a member of the student committee developing the action plan, praised newly appointed Datar for his “solid credentials” but highlighted that she is concerned about how Datar might execute on initiative.

“I was hoping for somebody who seemed to put more emphasis or priority on diversity, equity and inclusion, and from everything that I’ve read about him so far, I haven’t really seen that,” Adebo tells the Crimson. “I haven’t seen that that’s an area that he puts a lot of a lot of energy and attention.”

A public relations person for the school sent an email to the Crimson to allay the concerns about diversity. “Those who are concerned about Srikant’s commitment to diversity in all its dimensions and inclusion and racial and gender equity should take heart in the comments he made at his welcome address where he said, ‘We must adopt and act upon this plan with speed and urgency, striving to advance racial equity within HBS and to educate leaders who advance racial equity in their organizations and their communities,” the spokesperson wrote. “This work will not be easy. But it is key to our mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world.’”

Sources: The Harvard Crimson, The Harvard Gazette, P&Q, P&Q

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