University President Drew G. Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana attended the biweekly meeting of the Faculty Council Tuesday to discuss a committee that could revise a policy penalizing members of single social organizations.
Faust does not typically attend the meetings of the highest elected body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Council met hours before Khurana announced that the policy could be “revised or replaced” after faculty input.
“President Faust came to the Faculty Council meeting and mentioned that this letter was going to go out,” Council member David L. Howell said. “She gave us a kind of general overview of what it would say.”
The policy—which bars members of the unrecognized single-gender organizations from holding leadership positions in recognized student groups or receiving College endorsement for fellowships beginning with the Class of 2021—has been the subject of controversy among professors.
In letters, at Faculty meetings, and in written motions, some professors have argued over the course of months that administrators should have consulted them about the policy. Former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and 11 other professors crafted a motion last year opposing the sanctions. Faculty were expecting to vote on the motion at the December Faculty meeting, but Faust adjourned the meeting at the regular end time, tabling the motion until 2017.
In an interview Wednesday, Faust said that debate among professors at the Faculty’s December meeting spurred the formation of the new committee, which will be comprised of faculty, staff and students.
“It also came out of two things: an awareness of the concerns about and engagement by the faculty and a recognition of how widespread that engagement was and the concerns that have been expressed. We heard those concerns,” Faust said.
Council member and physics professor Matthew D. Schwartz said that the committee was “uniformly supported” by professors on the Council.
“It’s an important issue and I think everyone on the Faculty agrees that it’s important and contentious enough that we need to have more deliberation,” Schwartz said
Amid concerns from faculty members about their input into the University decision-making and the policy, Faust has sought to work with professors. Some professors not on the Council also said the creation of the committee was an encouraging step.
“I am deeply grateful to Dean Khurana and Dean Smith for taking this courageous and welcome decision,” government professor Eric M. Nelson ’99 wrote in an email. Nelson has been a vocal critic of the policy and is one of 12 professors who crafted a motion opposing it.
“I was particularly pleased to read Dean Khurana’s assurance that the Faculty will be given the opportunity to comment on the new committee’s eventual report before it is submitted to President Faust,” Nelson wrote.
Suzanne P. Blier, a professor of art history and African and African American studies, said she believed greater faculty engagement due to the committee would serve multiple purposes for the administration.
“It could mean that one wants to get the Faculty actually thinking about it,” Blier said. “It could mean that one is looking for Faculty support for a decision that the administration has taken.”
The new announcement extends the debate over social club sanctions into the fall of 2017, when the committee is expected to give its recommendations.
“We take longer, we’re older, and we address things in a more formal way, so here we are,” Blier said.
The Faculty is scheduled to meet for its first meeting of the semester in University Hall during the afternoon of Feb. 7.
—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.
—Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: January 26, 2017
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana does not typically attend Faculty Council meetings. In fact, he regularly attends the meetings.