In Anticipation of Sanctions Vote, Smith Releases Extensive Survey Data to Faculty

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith has released five years of undergraduate survey results to every voting member of the Faculty “to further inform” an upcoming debate on a College policy that penalizes members of final clubs and Greek organizations.

The results, compiled in a 158-page PDF document, were comprised of “all responses from the freshman, senior, and House life surveys that include the words final club, fraternity, and/or sorority from academic year 2010 to the present,” according to a Nov. 21 email from Smith obtained by The Crimson. The anonymized student responses are largely critical of Harvard’s social atmosphere and final clubs in particular, though a number of responses praise the clubs, fraternities, and sororities.

The FAS Dean
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith, pictured in a Harvard Gazette file photo from 2013.

The release of the survey results comes before an expected December vote on a piece of faculty legislation opposing the policy—which, starting with the Class of 2021 will bar members of final clubs and Greek organizations from leadership positions in recognized student groups, team captaincies, and College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall. The motion, first filed in May, states that “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”

The motion’s supporters say an affirmative Faculty vote would strike down the College policy. Administrators, including University President Drew G. Faust, have not directly indicated the impact of a successful motion. Faust has said, however, that the sanctions could be subject to change after consultation with faculty members.

“As the voting members of the Faculty are now asking to fully engage on this set of issues, they too need access to this data to have an informed discussion,” Smith wrote in his Nov. 21 email. Smith, through FAS spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven, declined to comment beyond his email to Faculty.

While survey responses varied considerably, many were sharply critical of final clubs and urged administrators to curb their influence on campus.

“The presence of Final clubs on campus is socially cancerous,” reads one response attributed to a senior male. “It bifurcates the social scene in a most undesirable way and provides a haven for sexual assault on campus.”

Classics professor Richard F. Thomas, an opponent of the College’s policy, said he could not recall the release of similar survey results ahead of other FAS votes. Thomas said he found the documents “fairly raw, and quite frankly I didn’t have time to read 150 PDFs, so I didn’t get that far through.”

“Again, it’s a bunch of anecdotes, there’s some ambiguity,” said Thomas, who added that despite opposing the policy he would “be perfectly happy for the final clubs to die out.”

History professor Andrew D. Gordon, who has expressed dissatisfaction with both the policy and the motion opposing it, wrote in an email that he “cannot recall a time when this sort of information has been shared.”

“I only skimmed the reports, it was a massive amount of information,” Gordon wrote. “Those I read certainly confirmed my view that the final clubs create a very problematic atmosphere on campus.”

While supporters of the policy have lauded it as a step toward creating a more welcoming social environment on campus, detractors, like former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68, have argued the policy could create “a College culture of fear and anxiety about nonconformity.” Lewis, one of the original signatories to the motion that Faculty could vote on at their next meeting on Dec. 6, has also raised concerns that administrators did not properly consult the Faculty before crafting the policy.

The Faculty Council, FAS’s highest elected body, will set the agenda for the Dec. 6 meeting at their meeting Wednesday.

—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at ramsey.fahs@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ramseyfahs.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at derek.xiao@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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