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UC Votes to Put Single-Gender Social Organization Proposition on Ballot

By Jamie D. Halper and Brian P. Yu, Crimson Staff Writers

Undergraduates will be asked to vote on whether they believe final clubs and Greek organizations should go gender-neutral, after the Undergraduate Council voted Sunday to put the proposition on the ballot for this month’s UC election.

In a narrow vote, the representatives approved the question “Do you think the unrecognized single-gender social organizations should have gender-inclusive membership by a means different than the current College administered sanctions?”

The question will join two other referenda on the UC’s November ballot: one questioning whether the College should repeal its sanctions on members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations, and one questioning whether the Harvard Turkey should become the official mascot of the University.

The sanctions, announced in May, bar students starting with the Class of 2021 from holding campus leadership positions, becoming varsity sports captains, or receiving College-sponsored scholarships if they are members of final clubs or Greek organizations.

UC President Shaiba Rather ’17, who co-sponsored the proposition with Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17, said she hoped the question would help the UC gather data on whether students wanted social groups to go gender neutral even if they did not support the College’s policy.

“We think there’s a distinction between beliefs on going gender-inclusive and beliefs on the policy,” Rather said. “You can see the policy as an overstep and an overreach, but still want these groups to go gender-inclusive.”

During last Tuesday’s meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rather and Banks spoke about their own views on the sanctions, arguing that the policy would help to reduce discrimination on campus.

Many representatives praised the proposition, suggesting that it would allow the UC to have a clearer mandate based on more student data.

“What I want to be able to do is to go to the administration and say: 'People support the idea of what you are going for, but people are opposed to the implementation,'” Mather House representative Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 said.

Other representatives argued that alternative options, such as a survey independent of the election ballot, would be a more effective means of gauging student opinion.

“This question muddies the water,” said UC Education Committee Chair Scott Ely ’18, who co-wrote the other referendum question that specifically concerns the College’s sanctions. “I think we’re going to get the necessary information from the question that’s already been asked.”

Two-thirds of the Council must vote to put a question on the ballot, and 67.6 percent of the UC voted for the proposition.

“One of the biggest criticisms of the University with the sanctions was the lack of involvement and engagement with student voice,” Mather House representative Eduardo A. Gonzalez ’18 said. “Let’s bring student voice into that discussion and put this on the ballot.”

During the meeting, representatives also debated a motion to support the House Intramural Council’s vote to exclude Dudley graduate affiliates from the House intramural sports league.

Several representatives expressed concern that it was unfair and potentially unsafe for undergraduates to play intramural sports against graduate students in Dudley.

“When you have an 18-year-old on the field playing against a 26-year-old, there’s such a physical imbalance in a contact sport that can lead to some dangerous situations,” Student Initiatives Committee Chair Madeline H. Stern ’18 said.

Eliot House representative Taylor D. Marquis ’18 also said some graduate Dudley intramural sports competitors have NCAA varsity experience in their sport, even while NCAA varsity undergraduates are excluded from participation in intramurals for their sport.

Laila M. Smith ’17-’18, the UC’s Dudley House representative, argued against the legislation, saying the legislation was based on hearsay rather than credible data about the number of NCAA alumni who participate in intramural sports and the historical success of Dudley’s intramural teams.

Smith also said barring graduate students from participating might leave the relatively small number of Dudley undergraduates without enough members to form teams.

“We have a lot of House pride. We wouldn’t want to be coupled with another House,” Smith said.

The UC ultimately voted to pass the legislation reaffirming the House Intramural Council’s vote.

The Council originally intended to discuss recent controversy surrounding sexually explicit documents produced by the men’s soccer and cross country teams, and even considered moving into executive session—a rare private session of the UC. But, they delayed conversation on the issue to a future meeting.

—Staff writer Brian P. Yu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @brianyu28.

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