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As faculty debate whether the College should have a policy penalizing members of final clubs and Greek organizations, the senior fellow of Harvard’s highest governing body said the policy itself will not be revoked, though its implementation will determine its ultimate impact.
“Now I think that the policy’s a policy, now the question is to implement it and make it work,” William F. Lee ’72, who leads the Harvard Corporation, said last month.
“The devil’s in the details,” Lee said of how the implementation of the policy will actually work.
Later this month, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will likely vote on a motion that aims to overturn the policy, which will bar students—starting with the Class of 2021—who are in unrecognized single-gender social organizations from holding student leadership positions in recognized groups, becoming varsity captains, or receiving endorsements for top post-graduate fellowships. While it remains unclear what impact a Faculty vote against the policy could have, University President Drew G. Faust has said that the sanctions could be subject to change after consultation with faculty members.
A 37-member committee of faculty, students, and staff have met with members from a variety of student groups, including student athletes and fellowship nominees, to determine how the policy should go into effect. They will decide what leadership positions and fellowship endorsements are covered by the policy, as well as how student organizations “fulfill the expectations of inclusive membership practices” and how the College will “handle transgressions” of the policy.
But some Faculty members have challenged the policy itself. At the last full Faculty meeting in November, professors packed University Hall to argue over the merits of the sanctions, and former Dean of the College and computer science professor Harry R. Lewis ’68 introduced a motion that condemns the policy without explicitly naming it.
The motion, penned in May, reads “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”
Lewis said he believes the motion, if approved by the Faculty, would strike down the sanctions. While Lee, Faust, and FAS Dean Michael D. Smith all expressed a commitment to working with faculty members to combat the influence of final clubs and Greek organizations on campus, they stopped short of confirming that the motion would nullify the policy.
“I think rather than getting into a struggle over who has the right to do what, I think what [Faust] said is we have a shared responsibility to solve these issues,” Lee said. “I think the first major step was the policy.”
Lee said he has spoken with Lewis, other faculty members, and graduate members of final clubs about the sanctions, and that the feedback he has received has been “overwhelmingly supportive of the goal and the policy.”
While many Harvard affiliates, including faculty members, sports coaches, and other members of the Harvard Corporation have publicly expressed support for the policy, it has been met with resistance from hundreds of students, professors, and club affiliates.
In April, before the sanctions were announced, Lee said the Corporation “regularly” consulted with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana about the role of fraternities, sororities, and final clubs in undergraduate social life.
Last week, Smith emailed the Faculty a 158-page report compiling five years of undergraduate survey results that included the words “final club” “sorority” or “fraternity” to “further inform” the upcoming debate and vote on Lewis’s motion.
—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.
—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.
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