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Members of the Faculty Council discussed single-gender social organizations at their first two meetings of the semester in preparation for a likely Faculty of Arts and Sciences vote on whether to support a new College policy penalizing the groups.
On Wednesday, three of 12 professors who last May filed a motion in opposition to the policy spoke before the Council, which is the highest elected body in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Computer Science professors Harry R. Lewis ’68 and Margo I. Seltzer ’83, as well as Classics professor Richard F. Thomas, gave the presentation, according to the Harvard Gazette, a publication run by Harvard Public Affairs and Communications.
Announced last May after a tense year of back-and-forth with club leaders, the sanctions against the single-gender organizations will prevent members of final clubs and Greek organizations from holding leadership positions and receiving endorsements for fellowships like the Rhodes and the Marshall starting with the Class of 2021.
The 12 professors who signed the motion argue that the College’s policy infringes upon students’ freedom of association, writing that “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”
Lewis and Thomas said in September they believed their motion—if approved by the Faculty—would strike down the College’s policy, because the University’s organizational statutes place the College “under the immediate charge” of FAS. Administrators have remained silent on whether they agree the motion could override the policy.
Further publicizing their views, Lewis, Seltzer, Thomas, and Government professor Eric M. Nelson ’99 on Monday published an opinion piece in The Crimson, writing that “the new policy is deeply objectionable.”
Thomas declined to comment on the details of the Wednesday presentation, saying, “I think, given the protocols around Faculty Council proceedings, I would prefer to have no comment.” Three members of the 18-professor Council also declined to comment on what the group discussed, and several others could not be reached for comment.
During the Council’s first meeting in late August, members also discussed final clubs and other social groups, Japanese history professor David L. Howell said.
“We have a sense of some of the big issues coming up on the calendar,” Howell said, which include “proposals regarding same-sex unsanctioned social organizations.”
Since Khurana’s announcement in May, students, faculty members, and alumni have responded strongly to the sanctions. The treasurer for the Harvard Corporation and three varsity coaches have written letters in support of the policy, and some alumni and professors have expressed their approval.
Others, though, have criticized the sanctions. Final club alumni, national Greek organization representatives, and former University President Lawrence H. Summers have spoken out against the College’s move. In addition, hundreds of undergraduate women marched on Harvard Yard days after the sanctions were announced, arguing the policy was particularly unfair to women.
One all-male final club, The Fly, has retained legal counsel to explore options to defy the sanctions. Some final clubs including the A.D., have started their “punch” seasons this week, several without their usual invitation-only policies in place.
—Staff writer Jonathan G. Adler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanGAdler.
—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.
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