The Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage

As part of her Advancing Racial Justice agenda, Dean Gay launched the Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage. Led by the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Robin Kelsey, this task force will convene a group of faculty, staff, and students from across the FAS to conduct a comprehensive study of our visual culture and articulate principles and informed guidelines for evolving the visual culture and imagery of the FAS. This work will provide a stronger foundation for the creative and meaningful action already happening at the local level, as well as catalyze new, more systematic visual change across the whole of the FAS.

If you have thoughts or ideas to share about how the FAS can advance a more inclusive visual culture, write to the Task Force at fasvisualculture@fas.harvard.edu.

Charge

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has, for hundreds of years, pursued a mission of excellence in teaching and research, advancing the frontiers of knowledge and preparing students for lives of leadership and service to the world. The FAS has a long and proud history of discovery and achievement worthy of celebration. But it also has a painful history, marred by exclusion and discrimination, and antithetical to the inclusive scholarly community we aspire to be today and in the future. As a community dedicated to transformational knowledge and academic discovery, the FAS brings together diverse voices, perspectives, and ideas from across disciplines, cultures, and backgrounds. This diversity is fundamental to our intellectual ambitions and fulfilling the promise of our mission. 

To foster a more inclusive campus culture, in the spirit of veritas that animates our mission, we must confront our dual legacies with honesty, humility, and resolve at every level of our institution, including how they are visually represented in the spaces where we work, live, and learn. How and where we memorialize individuals, events, and moments in our institutional history should reflect our core institutional values and commitments to truth, knowledge, critical thinking. The visual culture of the FAS should honor our past in a truthful way, while also celebrating the diversity and vitality of our present and instilling a sense of pride and belonging that is equally available to all members of our community. Honest and rigorous conversations about how we weave together our past, present, and future through our visual culture and symbols are necessary to build the stronger, more equitable future we envision.

To continue the work of building an FAS characterized by inclusive excellence, I am eager to bring the expertise and insights of our faculty, staff, and students to bear on this challenge. In Fall 2020, I am forming the Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage in FAS Spaces, with the goals of providing thorough research, informed guidance, and new ideas and recommendations to the FAS Dean on how to evolve the visual culture of the FAS. The task force will be led by Dean of Arts and Humanities, Robin Kelsey, and will include faculty representation from each of the academic divisions and SEAS, drawing on the diverse expertise and perspectives represented in the FAS faculty. The task force will also include student representatives drawn from Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as staff representation. The work of the task force will be supported by a project manager. 

To fulfill its charge the task force will deliver a report to the FAS Dean by May 2021. The report will include:

  • A comprehensive inventory, as complete as practicable, of the current visual culture and signage in FAS meeting, classroom, study, research, recreational, and social spaces, including an account of governing authorities and processes currently in place.
  •  A set of newly developed principles for the visual culture of the FAS. This will include informed guidelines and best practices for evolving our visual culture and imagery to ensure consistency and coherence across the FAS visual landscape. These principles and guidelines will be intended to provide a strong foundation for local efforts already underway and to support broader FAS-wide efforts to improve our visual culture and signage. 
  • A description of the resources available to FAS units in their efforts to improve the visual culture and signage of our spaces.
  • Ideas and recommendations concerning how best to implement the vision of the Task Force, in accord with its proposed principles and guidelines in the short, medium, and long terms. This should include a set of targeted opportunities identified by the Task Force and specific recommendations for immediate intervention. 
  • An account of the consultations and deliberations that informed the making of the Report.

Members

  • Robin Kelsey, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography, Chair
  • Shebly Acteson, associate director of University Disability Resources
  • Jennifer Allen, Director of Collections Management at Harvard Art Museums
  • Lowell Brower, lecturer on folklore and mythology
  • Dan Byers, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts
  • Teju Cole, Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing
  • Phil Deloria, Leverett Saltonstall Professor of History
  • Sarah Duncan, manager of IT operations at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science
  • Maryellen Fitzgibbon, senior planner at the Office of Physical Resources and Planning
  • Adriana Gallegos, manager of administrative operations, at Harvard Library
  • Shigehisa Kuriyama, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History
  • James Mathew ’21, president of the Undergraduate Council
  • Michael McGarrah, vice president of the GSAS Student Council
  • Ian Miller, professor of history and faculty dean of Cabot House
  • Venkatesh Murthy, Raymond Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Sandra Naddaff, Senior Lecturer on Literature and Comparative Literature; Dean of Harvard Summer School
  • Sheree Ohen, FAS Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
  • Jane Pickering, William and Muriel Seabury Howells Director of Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology
  • Veronica Santana, assistant director of diversity, inclusion, and belonging at SEAS
  • Sheila Thimba, dean of administration and finance at Harvard College
  • Alexis Turner, president of the GSAS Student Council
  • Ifeoma (Ify”) E. White-Thorpe ’21, vice president of the Undergraduate Council