Almost Two Years Later, Sanctions Are Unclear and Unfinished

Yesterday, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair announced the long-awaited implementation policy for the College’s penalties on members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations. Starting with the Class of 2021, these students will be barred from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations, becoming captains of varsity athletic teams, and receiving College endorsement for certain fellowships. In opposition to some earlier proposals, violations of the policy will be adjudicated through the Administrative Board.

In early February, we wrote that the administration’s plan to execute the sanctions remained “stunningly unclear.” Yet in spite of the Office of Student Life’s announcement, we are disappointed that our previous sentiment remains true. Fundamental questions about the sanctions’ enforcement and effects remain, stunningly, unanswered.

As their freshman year comes to a close, members of the Class of 2021 will begin, if they have not already, assuming leadership positions in student organizations. Many have already joined unrecognized single-gender sororities and fraternities, and, come this fall, some will likely join final clubs as well. The rules of the sanctions are established, yet how this policy will be enforced is unclear.

O’Dair said that the College will not actively search for nor solicit “anonymous complaints” on students who violate the policy. It remains to be seen, then, how sanctions violations will be discovered or reach the Ad Board. This is unfortunate. Though students should not breach the College’s policy, there must be a clear, concrete plan for action when they do.

Further, O’Dair remarked Wednesday that the administration still needs to “figure out” what it means for eligible social organizations to successfully adhere to the policy. In her email Thursday, O'Dair only specified that the OSL intends to create a "new framework for governing primarily social organizations" that will be debuted in the fall. Given that many unrecognized single-gender social groups have announced their intentions to go gender neutral in response to the sanctions, clarity on this issue is critical. With nearly two years having passed since the original announcement of the social group policy, it is truly remarkable that we must wait yet another few months for the College to finalize this part of the policy.

Concerns about implementation should have been answered by now. As we have previously opined, in the past the administration has consistently failed to clearly communicate how it will implement its sanctions policy. These failures were little addressed by yesterday’s announcement.

Furthermore, the College has failed to fulfill its most basic responsibility—to develop a complete and transparent policy. The enforcement mechanism given by the administration is vague at best and non-existent at worse. Incredibly, policies for how formerly single-gender organizations can go co-ed and gain recognition are still missing.

Given the impactful nature of the sanctions, we are thoroughly disappointed with this announcement. As we have reiterated before, we are supportive of the sanctions on members of unrecognized single-gender social groups. We wrote that they serve as “an initial corrective to the outsized influence of final clubs over undergraduate student life while helping combat their discriminatory practices.” We still stand by these statements, but we implore the administration to concretely and clearly implement the sanctions. The great potential they have to reshape College life for the better will not be realized with this unclear, unfinished implementation policy.

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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