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Harvard Humanitarian Initiative puts executive director on leave for not being very humanitarian

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative announced today that Theresa Lund, its executive director, has been put on leave for her interaction with another resident of a Harvard-owned apartment complex - in which Lund wondered whether the woman, who has a biracial daughter, lived in one of the "affordable units" and demanding to know her apartment number in a dispute over how loud the woman's daughter was while drawing with chalk outside.

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is an organization that promotes and defends humanitarian principles of service, equity, and justice. Our core values of integrity, collaboration, and respect for universal human rights are the foundation of all we do. It is within this context that I have been viewing the events of July 14th involving Theresa Lund. I wish to make clear that HHI does not condone her conduct during the exchange with Alyson Laliberte and her family.

Today, I write to share that Ms. Lund will be on-leave, effective immediately.

Each of us is committed to advancing our organization’s values of belonging and inclusion. As such, HHI will implement in the coming weeks additional trainings and programs for our staff to address implicit and explicit bias, pursue opportunities to promote diversity and inclusion within our workplace, and continue our efforts to serve those affected by war, crisis, and disaster. We look forward to continuing to improve our awareness and understanding of these issues within our communities, both locally and globally.

Sincerely,

Michael VanRooyen
Director, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

The Globe reports Lund apologized.

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Comments

But asking someone which apartment they live in isn't racist in my opinion,even if they have a biracial daughter. She is just a typical asshole neighbor which we have all come across.

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Voting closed 61

It's making assumptions about income and race and a child behaving like a child.

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it's racist when you ask if they are in an "affordable" unit

How is it asking a white woman if she lives in an affordable unit racist?

Sometimes people are just assholes, we throw the term racist around so often now it takes away from real racism.

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did you miss the part where the child is multiracial?
do you think for a single hot second this question would have been asked if the child looked white?
c'mon now.

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I seriously do think she would have asked the same if the child was not bi-racial. The whites live in affordable housing too.

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But, in this instance, the child was bi-racial and she made a judgement based on that. Thus it is racist.

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Ever notice how these things come out of people's mouths when they are feeling dominant?

This is racism and classism, and neither should spew forth from the mouth of a woman who is in charge of such an institute. The fact that they do speaks volumes of how toxic an pernicious racism and classism are in this society - even the "nice" people spew them.

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Yup. Racism and classicism at play in all their evil colors.

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Maybe she heard the mothers Boston accent and figured she couldn't live in the Harvard housing with the Boston accent.

So you have no idea whether it is racist or not.

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The only reason to try to make this point is because for some reason you feel triggered/are clutching your pearls over it.

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But I guess I could clarify and say that her intent may have not have been racist. We have no clue what her intent was.

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That's how this comes across.

Why can't you just take the L, learn from it, and move on?

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What does good or bad people have to do with it? This Lund lady was pissed that someone (a white lady) was challenging her unreasonable request to keep her kid down. Race may or may not have been part of her motivation to call her out on her housing situation. She didn't mention race, she mentioned housing (where many white people live).

I understand you don't say these things because they can be perceived as racist, and that is why we don't say them, but in no way do we know this woman's intent.

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We cannot be 100% certain of her intent. Doesn't mean that I can't also use my own judgment to assess the situation. You also can't tell me with 100% certainty that my assessment would be wrong.

I still hold that if you weren't actually clutching your pearls over this, you wouldn't have even bothered to take time out of your day to comment here.

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And I'm not clutching my pearls. I comment on all sorts of things and commented on this post several times about different points.

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What made her make that comment? The first thing she saw was a bi-racial child. Where do many white people believe bi-racial kids live when there are "affordable' apartments in a housing complex? You know the answer. If you think white folks do not do this, your bias is showing.

Look. No one knows for sure. But she could of just kept her comments to "your kid is noisy" (which I also do no agree with, BTW) and kept it at that. But she brought in race and class and thus, she is a bigot and an asshole.

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Who knows what she saw first. Harvard housing is very diverse, maybe she saw what that mother was wearing and thought it was lower class? Maybe she heard her talk and thought she was uneducated? Maybe she already knew where she lived and just wanted to show her power and through out the housing comment ("I earned my housing, you didn't")

Again, she didn't bring in race. She brought in class. It is a fact that she brought in class. It is an assumption that she brought in race. that is really my only point.

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Where do many white people believe bi-racial kids live when there are "affordable' apartments in a housing complex?

Many white people believe that? Or are you just giving your opinion on what you believe many white people think? Saying you know how many people of any race think is wrong.

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You have no idea what this woman based any of her judgements on.

Not defending her in the least and if I were her boss I'd suspend her just for being obnoxious to her neighbors, if I could.

But let's hold off on the Minority Report conclusions.

Thanks.

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Thousands of white people live in public housing in Boston and have been put down because of it by various groups of people for various reasons.

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that many white and non-white people don't look down their bose at socioeconomically deprived white people? The issue, as usual, is really about class and social (at least percieved) status. For some reason, Americans, including so called progressives, do their best to deflect and avoid the issue of class in favor of skin tone.

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citations needed

Plenty of evidence that racism IS the problem. The others are just "explanations" by people who don't want to think about their own indoctrination level.

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Then deflect attention to anothee sucial justice issue, you, for whatever psychological reason, are more comfortable with. You need to leave your ideologucal comfort zone.

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There's white and then there's white. I'm guessing Alyson LaLiberte gets her dark hair and eyes from Quebec, given the popularity of that last name in Canada.

Frau Lund, however, is white AF. And now world famous!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5959195/Director-Harvard-researc...

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There’s a statistic out there somewhere, I think, which states that there are more white people in affordable housing across the United States then non-white people.

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The price of tea in China.

Means about as much to racists as the realities of public housing.

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There's probably a statistic showing that there's more white people in the US, period.

Back it up with something.

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Its not ANYBODYS BUSINESS AS TO WHERE ONE RESIDES NO LAWS WHERE BEING BROKEN N SHE IS NOT AN OFFICER OF THE LAW TO ASK SUCH QUESTIONS AND TO IMPLY IF A PERSON LIVES IN A AFFORDABLE UNIT IS BIASED BECAUSE SHE IS FLATLY SAYING THEY DONT BELONG THERE

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Lund was not so subtly implying that she could get Laliberte evicted for daring to "talk back" to her "superiors".

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"Lund was not so subtly implying that she could get Laliberte evicted for daring to "talk back" to her "superiors"."

She's from Harvard for chrissakes. I think it's taught in orientation.

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Same time as when you get your bonuses for being native american?

LOL!

HSPH never used to be that way - probably a result of the burgeoning expansion of administrators and institutes and leadership >> faculty.

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Not quite accurate. Affordable housing is subject to fraud, and it's up to neighbors to monitor that. What happens is the original owner/renter of an affordable unit moves away. Rather than sell the unit or terminate the lease, they sublet.

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Although I agree she was an asshole, I also do think she was being racist and was implying that the mother and child were from a "lower social class". The latter really struck me, and was more prominent to me but that might be because I grew up in a blue collar family and have had similar experiences.

"Are you in one of the affordable units?" was said with such contempt...

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Theresa Lund was trying to be shady and it backfired on her spectacularly.

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Are you white?

Are your children white?

If you are, STFU - let the victims of racism decide what is/isn't racism.

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How about we don't give some people a blank check to torch other people with no objective evidence other than "trust me."

Sounds like a reasonable way to structure a society, doesn't it?

Alternatively, we could declare open season on everyone by everyone. Someone dinged my car in the parking lot. Or stole my package. Or looked at me funny in the checkout line at the grocery store. Therefor you (the specific anon I'm replying to) should be tarred and feathered. I get to decide. I'm the victim.

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We'll talk about what you think.

Meanwhile, the lived reality of people who you deign to speak for is rather different than that.

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Because surely an eminent scientist like you wouldn't dream of asserting that different people live in different realities? That there's no such thing as objectivity? That claims can't be evaluated and judged and reproduced by third parties?

IMAGE(https://media.giphy.com/media/1eKbAKgocJCta/giphy.gif)

Right Swirly?

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What a hypocritical asshole. There's a lot more like her in the People's Republic.

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Jesus was alright- it's his followers who tend to be the hypocrites.

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in this otherwise presumably-liberal personage. Still, though: racism is not always to the conservative, nor bigotry to the right-winger, but that's the way to bet. Liberals are at least occasionally capable of feeling shame: witness Al Franken quitting, while Trump defended Roy Moore, pussy-grabbing, neo-Nazis, and Putin's obvious lies over the conclusions of his own appointed military and intelligence operatives.

On a side note, when did "trainings" (and the related currently-fashionable business parlance "learnings") get to be plurals? That kind of jargon always grates on me -- I still cringe at "impact" as a verb. I love how America doesn't have a prescriptive academy for English like France does for French, how we routinely absorb words and usages from many other languages -- I suspect it's one reason English has superseded French as the global lingua franca of diplomacy and tech, along with its useful double-negative to express a positive -- but I often regret some of the adoption of business-speak into the language.

Trade-specific jargon has its uses as a marker of in-groupness. I fondly recall an engineer at a prospect asking our sales guy if our product featured LRF, to which he smoothly replied "Yes", not in on the joke that it means "little rubber feet". But those jokes get stale in the way that any cliche does when it passes into wider usage.

Don't get me started on how "literally" has been accepted in some quarters as a synonym for "figuratively", effectively its opposite. That one boggles. Using it that way signifies that you're literally, errr, I mean metaphorically, as dumb as a bag of hammers. Bonus muttonhead points if you pronounce it "lit-trah-lee", fecklessly believing that that Britishism makes you sound smarter.

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I gave you an upvote, even though this comment seems to stray far off from the topic at hand.

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"Literally" has been used like that for centuries.

"Lingua Franca" means French tongue, I'm surprised your own usage doesn't grate on you.

Racism is pervasive throughout American society, not just in the South, or with conservatives.

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who lectures on usage without bothering to consult a dictionary. "[A]ny language that is widely used as a means of communication among speakers of other languages" is literally the first definition of "lingua franca".

I say "potentially grating", because it's actually hilarious, like the drunk at the bar trying to pick up the cute girl, not spotting her disgust at the big glob of nacho cheese on his chin.

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the pedant who lectures on usage without bothering to consult a dictionary.

Weren't you just complaining about people using "literally" instead of figuratively? Let's consult a dictionary, shall we:

The use of literally in a fashion that is hyperbolic or metaphoric is not new—evidence of this use dates back to 1769. Its inclusion in a dictionary isn't new either; the entry for literally in our 1909 unabridged dictionary states that the word is “often used hyperbolically; as, he literally flew.”

(as stated by Merriam-Webster here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/misuse-of-literally)

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mean "figuratively" by famous authors from Dickens to F. Scott Fitzgerald. This question is an old hobbyhorse among professional grammar nerds like myself.

I still find it boggling, and grating. There is no sense of its root "literal" that means anything remotely like "figurative": in fact, its most common usages connote the exact opposite of figurative. So how does the adverb "literally" get to mean its original sense, or its exact opposite, depending on the speaker?

I suspect that if you never stop to think about the meaning of "literal", you might interpret "literally" as used for simple emphasis, like "totally" or "wickedly". American English words mean what people understand them to mean: wide usage is what defines meaning, not some self-described authority. As I noted, I generally think this is a great thing -- English has more flex and absorption than many other languages, which increases its power and utility -- but not always.

Dickens notwithstanding, wide acceptance of "literally" to mean "figuratively" is relatively new. Dictionaries only started recognizing that sense of the word as an informal usage for the first time about five years ago. Enough people use it? The dictionaries record it: it's part of the language, contradictory meanings and all.

But that doesn't mean it won't reflect unflatteringly on your education or clarity of thinking. Dictionaries also record usages like "ain't" and "irregardless", whose meanings are also widely understood. I will continue to silently judge people who use those words -- in the case of "literally" to mean "figuratively", as not smart enough to understand what "literal" means. No, your mind was not literally a million miles away, dumbass. Or *was it*?

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If I'm bi racial and things are so bad for black people why wouldn't I just take white as an identity..
Just wondering.

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Because the person in question never gets to decide what race they are. The racist assigns it to them.

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Or is this a very poor attempt at humor?

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His next spew: why was my son arrested for assaulting someone if he's white. JUST NOT FAIR!

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The kind of guy who can't get it through his head why he can't use the N word. Doesn't understand why he can't compare a black woman to an ape. It all makes perfect sense to him.

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My grandmother did ... sort of ... and passed.

HOWEVER, something white people like you don't understand is that YOU don't get to decide how racist society sees you. YOU don't get that choice.

Maybe you should learn some history - ever hear of the "one drop" rule? Look it up.

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Because, like what I feel President Obama encountered - you'll never be enough white for some, nor enough black for others. You can't win with extremes on either side.

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But if you're really curious, put in the effort and spend a few weeks reading up on slavery and race relations in America. If you're curious but lazy, skip ahead to the one drop rule.

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As an MIT grad, I occasionally chuckle at these nebulous Harvard institutions. We eat Harvard for lunch, IMO. I wonder what the HHI was paying her.

https://www.uh.edu/engines/mifootball.jpg

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Cough senior house cough.

The real problem is the proliferation of directors, who, like CEOs, have little engagement in the actual subject matter of their institute. Happens in state schools, too - there is an entire parasitic director class brought into "direct" things and "adminstrate" regardless of whether they understand the most basic anything about the day to day functioning or even have any working understanding of the technology or science or body of evidence involved in their institute. Notice that Lund's resume is all about the "leadership blah" and nothing in it would indicate that she has any particular vocation for humanitarian aid or public health or anything of the sort.

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Understandable, but she should keep thoughts to herself. Most people don't want screaming kids in a quiet neighborhood.

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1. Quiet is not sacred. Dogs bark, kids play, people play music on their patios. DEAL WITH IT or move to bumburbia

2. Where, oh where is 3:30 on a Saturday "quiet hours"?

3. Somehow, that quiet does not extend to things like leaf blowers, etc. Wonder what "progressive" things Ms. Lund would have said to a landscaper fresh from Central America?

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Asking someone to quiet it down a bit isn't wrong either.

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But not mandatory - especially when it is entirely unreasonable.

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I rented a condo I owned to a divorced dad who got his two young children on alternate weekends. My neighbor below insistently complained to me about the noise of them running about during the day. I worried enough about this to consult a lawyer, who advised me that this was not an issue, as long as my tenant observed condo rules about quiet hours (11pm to 7am).

I offered my neighbor a consultation with my lawyer at my cost on this question. He demurred. He's a lawyer, too, presumably knows the law better than I do. He suggested that people with kids shouldn't live in the city. I countered that anyone who expects perfect silence in the South End might be happier in the suburbs. I never heard from him again on the subject.

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on that.

I once leased a condo I owned to a divorced dad who got his two young children on alternate weekends. My neighbor below insistently complained to me about the noise of them running about during those four days a month. This worried me enough to consult a lawyer, who advised me that this was not an issue as long as my tenant observed condo rules about quiet hours (11pm to 7am) and took steps to minimize noise like putting down rugs on the hardwood floors, which I had already seen to.

I offered my neighbor a consultation with my lawyer at my cost on this question: he demurred. He's a lawyer, too, presumably knows the law better than I do. He still woke me up early on a Thanksgiving morning to assert that people with kids shouldn't live in the city. I countered that anyone who expects perfect daytime silence in the South End might be happier in the suburbs. I never heard from him again on the subject.

Tragic side note: that tenant was Mike Davidson, the Deaconess doctor who was murdered by a sick individual with a handgun who was unhappy with the treatment of his mother who had died some weeks after being under Mike's care. Mike had moved out of my place after reconciling with his wife, whom he remarried and had another child with before he died. He was a brilliant, innovative cardiovascular surgeon -- he and a colleague pioneered a combination of two previously-competing surgical techniques -- who saved my brother's life, among countless others, and was one of the smartest, kindest, most decent people I have ever met.

He was a talented guitar player, and like me, a food geek. My last conversation with him was about a planned visit to Moody's Deli in Waltham that we never closed on. I was on the Pike headed back to the city when I heard of the news of his death on the radio, decided to divert to Moody's to eat a corned-beef sandwich in his honor. The place was mercifully empty in the middle of a gorgeously bright, sunny afternoon. The saddest good meal of my life, but a tribute I like to think Mike would have appreciated.

Too bad it's a fallen world.

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Hint: it is not a gated community in Weston with houses on 5 acres each.

This was 3:30 on a Saturday in the summer in Cambridge. People will be out doing people things, including children.

Lund seems to be one of those people who expects that everyone around her drop what they are doing so that she and her special children can be accomodated.

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Why do you think she wasn't also lying about the loudness?

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I'll take screaming kids any day. Unless you live in upstate Vermont, no neighborhood is truly quiet. Ever been in a neighborhood where the landscapers are using their leaf blowers? Ha.

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director of something with a big salary who is actually a hypocritical asshole. Will wonders never cease?

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Y’all here is another Permit Patty trying to kick me off my own property because she’s having a hard time getting her kids to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday. I’m outside enjoying the afternoon with my daughter when this woman came downstairs and asked me if I would move so her kids can nap. Mind you it’s mid day and we weren’t even being loud at all drawing with chalk. She followed me around and harassed me trying to get my information and apartment number as if she had a right to know. When I wouldn’t tell her she proceeded to ask me if I lived in the “affordable apartments” of the building for Cambridge residents or if I lived in one of the Harvard owned apartments (which is all the same building anyways). It was totally discriminating and racist of her.. or maybe it was because my daughter is biracial who knows. I have no idea who this woman is and the fact that she thinks she has some kind of authority over me is crazy! She wanted to know what apartment number I lived at so she can yell outside my window to see if I like it (real mature) as you hear her say in the video. This woman’s house is no bigger than mine even if she lives in one of the apartments that are owned by Harvard. Despite color, where I live, how much money I have she will be buried 6 feet under just like me... Why do people think they are literally better than others? Why does she think she has a right to make us move? If she really did not want to be disturbed she would own a one family house instead of deciding on moving in to a condominium with a bunch of neighbors. I’ve lived in this complex for 15 years. Not one other person complained about my daughter and I. I have no idea who this woman is but if someone knows her please tag her and share this if you agree!!!!

EDIT: Did not see the video before posting the above. The woman is out of line. Harvard did the right thing.

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Lund was extremely condescending, among other things. There was nothing polite about it.

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Lund apparently doesn't even have kids.

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If that's true...wow.

Source?

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Her neighbors posted on FB that she doesn't have kids.

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it did seem weird that she would leave this napping child alone to go toe to toe with this person

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Where someone condescendingly threatening to get you kicked out of your home is "talking nicely".

Spoken like a rich white entitled brat - tone is all that matters!!!

Yes, rich entitled asswipes "talk nicely" even when they have a snippy, condescending, sarcastic tone to them AND aren't using swear words. Even when being complete asswipes who aren't nice at all.

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The woman with the daughter playing outside is right. Kids playing outside on a Saturday trumps 3:30pm naps all day long.

Close the window, move the kid to a different room, or deal with it. Kids that need naps at 3:30 don't usually get woken up by loud noises inside, let alone outside. Probably better for her kid if she learns to sleep with some noise but that is neither here nor there.

Now if the kid has some sort of special need or is sick, asking politely would be very reasonable.

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Voting closed 44

Lund's request was unreasonable. It does not matter if it was supposedly polite, at least when the camera was rolling - it was unreasonable, and Laliberte had every right to say no and go about her business.

Just because you ask nicely doesn't mean that your request is reasonable, nor does it require the person who is asked to accomodate you.

Sounds like Lund has problems with her kids saying "no" to her and her neighbors as well.

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Nuff said.

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It's possible to be a jerk without being a racist. It's possible for a white person to be a jerk to a non-white person, and not be a racist. (Or, in this case, a white person and another white person... but whatever)

Immediately concluding that every negative interaction between a white person and a non-white person is motivated by racism is not going to help mend race relations in our society.

(I don't blame the employer here; if you don't get out in front of an angry mob, you become its next target.)

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Immediately concluding that every negative interaction between a white person and a non-white person is motivated by racism is not going to help mend race relations in our society.

No. I would say that people who express racism in negative interactions are the problem. Stop blaming the victims.

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but folks can be jerks and racists. And she fits the bill.

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I saw this on worldstar and was thinking the lady is just an unreasonable elitist. She would have acted the same way to anyone because she has real issues

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Completely agree!

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The term for this is telescopic philanthropy.

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Lund doesn’t even have kids!?!

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Maybe she meant her pets. Many people refer to dogs and cats as their children.

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alum of Wellesley College. Not one of their finest, I must say.

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any relation to Erik Van Rooyen from South Africa?

He's currently tied for 6th at The Open Championship (commonly known as the British Open on this side of the pond).

Totally irrelevant - but couldn't help notice the name.

:-)

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Voting closed 25

That's almost as important as the "R U poor?" part of the exchange: When she says "one of the Harvard units", does that mean that she gets an apartment (either free or discounted) as part of her compensation? If so, doesn't that mean that Harvard should kick her out of it while she's on leave? Because, after all, she's not working...

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Noise complaints on a Saturday afternoon at 3:30 PM !? How dare anyone expect an "Executive Director", especially at at Harvard Initiative, to have to deal with the problems of the hoi polloi. Ms. Lund should purchase an estate that offers ample acreage and a leafy green buffer zone sufficient to safeguard herself from the pesky ambient noise commensurate with a communal living situation. And then there is the "Affordable housing" question. One would think that the HHI would require a demonstrated awareness of social, racial, and cultural issues from any of its employees. Lastly, the release issued by the HHI includes the obligatory, if not hackneyed, reference to "core values" which most definitely were NOT on exhibition on July 14th. How could you have someone so high up within your organization be so out of touch - or does the HHI have a general problem with community respect ?

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