UC President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and UC Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18, who oppose certain social group penalties, sent the survey asking about three different options—eliminating all social group penalties, banning membership in social groups, and keeping the College’s original penalties on unrecognized single-gender social organizations.
Under the current policy, which went into effect with the Class of 2021, members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be barred from holding campus leadership positions, athletic team captaincies, and certain prestigious fellowships.
University President Drew G. Faust will make a final decision on whether Harvard will abandon the current policy or take a different approach. She will select one of three options proposed by a faculty committee in September: banning membership in single-gender groups, maintaining the current sanctions, or opting for an alternative.
In the email to College students, Sachee and Khansarinia urged students to make their voices heard.
“We recently spoke to the Faculty at their monthly meeting, and promised to return in November with an updated pulse on what students want with regard to social groups and the future of social life at Harvard,” Sachee and Khansarinia wrote.
Indeed, Sachee, a member of the Bee Club, voiced her opposition to a ban on social clubs at the most recent Faculty of Arts and Sciences meeting on Oct. 3, prompting criticism from some members of the UC who said she should have consulted them before speaking. During her speech, she contended that returning to the status quo was untenable, arguing that “change is necessary both among the USGSOs and outside of them.”
The survey itself has also become the subject of criticism from some who worry it will not be an accurate representation of student views. Jack W. Deschler ’19, a Cabot House Committee co-chair, said that he worries surveys which do not employ random sampling are open to selection bias.
“What I worry about with a survey like this is that only people who care very deeply about it, such as the members of the single-gender organizations, will fill out the survey,” Deschler said. “If I saw this survey and I was the president of [a sorority], I would hold a chapter meeting and require everyone to fill this out.”
Sachee and Khansarinia said that they anticipated criticisms about the statistical validity of the survey and acknowledged that they had opted for the survey to be sent to all students over a random sampling.
“We would likely not get full participation either way, [and] erred on the side of providing each and every student with the opportunity to respond and share their thoughts,” Sachee and Khansarinia wrote.
The survey does not ask students whether they are members of an unrecognized single-gender social organization, though administrators on the Committee on Student Life had proposed the addition as early as Oct. 19. Instead, the survey will only ask two demographic questions: gender and class year.
“We decided to just have two demographic questions, gender and class year, and not to have students indicate USGSO status, because the first two are more relevant in terms of breaking it down,” Khansarinia said in an interview. “We tried to get as much demographic information without putting bias into it, and we thought that this was a way we could do this.”
It has been almost a year since the Undergraduate Council polled all College students on the social club penalties. In a November 2016 UC ballot referenda, 60 percent of student voters—1,820 students—opposed the College’s original sanctions, first proposed in May firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @KentonShimozaki
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