On Sanctions Enforcement, the Honor Council's Role Requires Clarity

The Implementation Committee’s enforcement suggestions are appropriate, but the potential role of the Honor Council must be clearer.

In an email this Wednesday, Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana released the report of the committee tasked with recommending implementation procedures for sanctions on unrecognized single-gender social organizations. Khurana accepted the majority of the committee's recommendations, save a suggestion that leadership positions in the Undergraduate Council and The Crimson be included in the sanctions. For these, he has deferred to another committee.

We have already voiced our opposition to administrators interfering in UC elections, but we commend the implementation committee for arriving at a means of enforcement that would preclude a potential witch hunt for members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations. It is good that the recommendations also convey the gravity of the sanctions to would-be transgressors.

The report proposes that students applying for fellowships, team captaincies, or other positions covered by the sanctions would need to sign a statement affirming their awareness and compliance with the new policy. This would serve as a preventative rather than reactive measure, hopefully avoiding actual violations of the policy and thus precluding the need for investigations into students’ personal lives.

Moreover, it is emphasized in the report that the statement is intended to be an agreement directly between the student and the College, so that “faculty, faculty deans and tutors, athletic coaches, fellow organization members, teammates ... should not be responsible for policing the policy or ensuring that it is complied with.” We hope this clause will minimize the intrusiveness of the policy and streamline its enforcement by restricting information to only the parties that are directly involved.

That said, the administration should be more transparent about the involvement of the Honor Council in punishing potential violations. As noted in the report, this proposal would require either an expansion of the jurisdiction of the Honor Council or a peculiar couching of false affirmations as an instance of academic dishonesty. Either path could dilute the mission of the Honor Council. In light of the discontent voiced by current members, prospective applicants to the Council should be notified of the exact policies they will be asked to enforce before they assume their positions.

Furthermore, the report does not shed any light on how investigations will be conducted. As they will connect to students’ personal lives, these proposed Honor Council investigations will differ substantially from cases of academic dishonesty. Since violations might take place a year before or after a student assumes a leadership position, the collection of evidence might be difficult.

Until more detail is provided by Khurana or the administration, the suggestions of the committee will remain just that: suggestions. Nevertheless, we believe that the committee has identified the correct guiding principle in seeking to enforce the sanctions. Now, we ask administrators for clarity on the procedural aspects of this policy.

As they develop these protocols, they are right to “err on the side of allowing some students to evade the restrictions than adopt processes that students regard as inquisitional.” A witch hunt for final club members would not accomplish the aims of the policy. The enforcement of the sanctions should not overshadow their intended goals.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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