UC Leaders Criticize Proposal to Ban Social Groups

Freshman First Day of Class
UC President and Vice President Yasmin Z. Sachee '18 and Cameron K. Khansarinia '18, pictured at the Class of 2021 Convocation Tuesday.
Undergraduate Council President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18 criticized a recent proposal that seeks to entirely eliminate Harvard’s undergraduate social groups as “not effective” in an interview Thursday.

In July, a committee tasked with reconsidering the College’s current social group policy—which penalizes members of single-gender final clubs, sororities, and fraternities—recommended that all social groups, regardless of gender makeup, be “phased out.”

Sachee, a member of the all-female Bee Club, was one of six students to sit on the committee. After the committee released its recommendations over the summer, The Crimson reported that its ultimate recommendation had received only seven votes in a straw poll of the 27 members.

Reiterating criticisms of the College’s crackdown on single-gender groups she first raised during her campaign for the UC presidency, Sachee said Thursday that she believes the proposed blanket social group ban would unfairly penalize the social groups “that are not really causing the huge issues.”

Khansarinia agreed. “It won’t work and it’s an aggressive policy which kind of seems just like a policy just to do something,” he said, adding that issues like exclusivity and a “lack of social spaces” would not be remedied by a social group ban.

The committee will consult with faculty and students before releasing a final revised report on September 25. Sachee said she hopes the committee will first examine the results of the current policy, which prohibits students in single-gender organizations from holding club leadership positions and sports captaincies as well as from receiving endorsements for some fellowships.

Since the policy was announced, four formerly single-gender groups—the Sab Club, Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Seneca, and the Oak Club—have gone co-ed. On Tuesday, the previously all-male Delphic Club and the Bee Club announced they would begin sharing membership and a clubhouse.

Sachee said she hopes groups that have gone co-ed are given time to transition to gender-neutral membership.

“There are some groups who over the summer, last year, last semester, and in this coming semester have made some changes,” she said. “We hope that the College will give them enough time to actually see this through.”

Looking ahead, Sachee and Khansarinia said they plan to run freshmen welcoming events for students from marginalized groups, part of a joint effort between the UC and the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations to fund programming for affinity groups during the first few weeks of school.

“It’s hopefully going to be a really great way to welcome freshmen on campus into the many different communities here,” Sachee said.

The two also said they hope students will utilize the Council’s centralized guide for student groups’ comp processes, a campaign tenet that made its debut this spring.

Sachee also said she and Khansarinia were pleased to see the College agree to fund a pre-orientation program for incoming students from marginalized backgrounds a semester after Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana rejected a proposal for a similar program for low-income and first-generation students.

The UC will convene a general meeting this Sunday.

—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at andrew.zucker@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.

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