Faculty Again Clash on Social Group Sanctions

Faculty Meeting
SEAS Dean Frank Doyle and Computer Science professor and former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ‘68 enter University Hall for the faculty meeting Tuesday afternoon, during which faculty voted to end Harvard Time and extend course length.
UPDATED: April 5, 2017 at 2:42 p.m.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences criticized the College’s proposed plan for enforcing penalties on members of single-gender social organizations at their monthly meeting Tuesday, again clashing with administrators on a topic that has dominated Faculty discussion for months.

Last month, a committee tasked with creating recommendations for enforcing the penalties proposed that the Honor Council—which usually deals with violations of Harvard’s academic Honor Code—investigate students who violate the policy by “falsely affirming compliance.” At Tuesday’s meeting, several Faculty members took issue with the proposed plan, and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana said that the Faculty may need to approve the Honor Council’s new role.

Shortly after the meeting began, former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 asked if the Faculty would conduct a vote to amend the student handbook and grant the Honor Council an expanded role.

“May we be assured that you will bring amended legislation to this Faculty before expanding the remit of the Honor Council beyond what the Faculty previously voted to delegate to it?” Lewis asked.

“We are exploring an affirmation of awareness of the policy,” Khurana said. “If this affects the student handbook we will of course use the normal review policy for recommending changes.”

In March, Khurana accepted nearly all of the recommendations that the committee submitted to him in its 46-page report.

Lewis—who withdrew a motion opposing the sanctions in January following the announcement of a new faculty committee that could “revise or replace” the current social policy—argued that the Honor Council currently does not have the authority to investigate students who transgress the policy.

Contention over the single-gender social organization policy did not abate after Lewis’s comments. Faculty also discussed a motion professor David A. Haig submitted opposing a proposed requirement that students applying to leadership positions, athletic captaincies, or postgraduate fellowships sign a pledge stating they do not belong to a single-gender social group.

“This faculty does not approve of Harvard College requiring a student to make an oath, pledge or affirmation about whether the student belongs to a particular organization or category of organizations,” Haig’s motion reads.

Ultimately, the Faculty voted not to debate Haig’s motion directly, instead sending it to the faculty committee that is studying whether to revise or replace the policy entirely. Haig is a member of that committee. The Docket committee first recommended that the Faculty punt on the motion.

“The USGSO committee was created to be precisely this type of platform for precisely these types of concerns,” Jennifer L. Roberts, the chair of the docket committee, said. “Given that Professor Haig is already a member of the committee, the Faculty Council is also worried that his motion might circumvent the committee.”

Still, several Faculty members disagreed with the vote to send the motion to the faculty committee.

“I hope that colleagues consider this motion to refer seriously,” James Engell, an English and comparative literature professor, said. “This motion to refer is a way of continuing to remove from the Faculty its power of discussion and voting on this matter.”

Classics professor Richard F. Thomas said Khurana’s deep level of involvement in the new committee was cause for concern. Khurana will co-chair the committee that is re-evaluating the policy he originally formulated.

“The dean responsible for promulgating the policy is co-chair of this committee,” Thomas said, “This leaves me again with an uneasiness.”

Following Thomas’s comment, Smith defended his decision to select Khurana as one of the committee’s chairs.

“I’m responsible for the co-chairs that we have. Certainly, Dean Khurana is associated with a particular point of view, but I believe that Dean Khurana is open-minded,” Smith said. “We are quite a ways into the discussion of this policy. I did not think an independent group, completely disconnected from the College would make sense.”

The faculty committee will submit its recommendations or amendments to the policy, which, beginning with the class of 2021, bars members of single-gender social organizations from club leadership positions, athletic team captaincies, and certain post-graduate fellowships, in the fall.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at joshua.florence@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 5, 2017

A previous version of this article omitted portions of a quote from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

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