The Committee on College Life (COCL) yesterday decided to postpone a decision on whether to recognize a student group that may be affiliated with the Boston Church of Christ.
Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, chair of the committee, decided against taking a vote at the meeting because of questions about the group's autonomy and advisers.
The group--Harvard Christians in Action--has sought recognition for more than two years, according to Michael J. Hrnicek '96, president of the group. Hrnicek has blamed Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III for the delays in the organization's application process.
At yesterday's meeting, Epps said the College should not recognize Hrnicek's group because the group is not clearly independent from the Boston Church of Christ--also known as the International Church of Christ--a group which some have accused of aggressive proselytizing tactics.
"As I see it, this is an outside ministry trying to conduct its affairs on campus," Epps said. "And there is a history of the conduct of the church on campus."
Matthew J. DeGreeff, a proctor in Grays Hall, said that last year a member of the church harassed 31 students in his entryway.
"I had a horrible experience last year with a student who is a major recruiter for the Boston Church of Christ," said DeGreeff, a member of the Board of Freshman Advisers. "This is an issue that tortured my entryway. These students [who recruit for the Boston Church of Christ] violate people's rights here."
But Hrnicek, who is also a COCL member, said his student organization is an independent Bible study group, not part of the larger church's ministry.
"The application is something I have done on my own initiative," Hrnicek said. "It is my initiative, not the church's initiative."
But Epps said Hrnicek's claim of autonomy "is a distinction without a difference."
"I think the confusion is because we have an attempt to present an application as if it's completely tabula rasa and has no context," Epps said. "If we don't [consider the context], we're likely to make decisions that would lead to detriment in the long run."
Quincy House Master Michael Shinagel questioned whether the group had an adviser affiliated with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, another requirements for recognition.
But Shinagel said he would be willing to give Hrnicek's group space to meet, even if the group is not recognized.
"Why can't you meet without recognition?" Shinagel said. "I'll give you a room in Quincy House."
COCL member and Undergraduate Council representative Randall A. Fine '96 said he believes Hrnicek's group has met all of the qualifications necessary for recognition and should be recognized.
According to the Handbook for Students, a prospective student organization is required to have undergraduate officers, at least 10 members and two advisers, one of whom must be a full faculty member. It must also maintain local autonomy and file each fall with the Dean of Students' office.
"When we have a set of rules, I think you should stick by them," Fine said. "The rules are intended to be content-blind."
But Epps suggested that the COCL "not stick to the strict letter of College regulations."
Jewett said the COCL will reconvene after the winter recess to make its final decision on Harvard Christians in Action