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Khurana Announces Single Gender Policy Enforcement Committee

By C. Ramsey Fahs, Crimson Staff Writer

The committee tasked with implementing the College’s new policy penalizing unrecognized single-gender social groups will craft regulations that could pave the way for a formal relationship between Harvard and private student organizations that do have gender-neutral membership, according to the committee’s newly-launched website.

The group is charged with, among other tasks, “out[lining] the expectations and principles that would characterize a formal relationship between private, gender-inclusive social organizations and Harvard College,” according to the website, “[l]eaving open the possibility of defining a new category” of student groups.

Douglas Melton, a Faculty Dean of Eliot House and a University professor, and Kay K. Shelemay, a professor in the Music and African American Studies departments, will chair the committee, according to a College-wide email sent Tuesday afternoon from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. By Megan M. Ross

The group, to be composed of students, staff, and faculty members, will offer recommendations about the extensive logistics of implementing the new policy—which starting with the Class of 2021, bars members of single-gender social organizations from leadership positions in student groups and top fellowships—by the end of the spring semester.

The committee’s full membership is still undecided; students will be selected through a nomination process. Khurana’s email did not name other faculty set to serve.

Over the course of the year, the committee may hold “town halls, focus groups, and/or solicitation of information from various community stakeholders,” according to the group’s website.

Khurana’s email outlined three broad questions the committee will consider. First, the committee will determine “what leadership roles and endorsements are affected by the policy.” The committee will also develop recommendations for how student organizations “fulfill the expectations of inclusive membership practices.” Lastly, the committee will decide how the College should “handle transgressions” of the policy.

The committee will also develop “a comprehensive communications and outreach plan” to explain the new policy and its enforcement details to students.

Implementing the College’s wide-ranging policy is sure to be an extensive undertaking. Each year, scores of students apply for the fellowships affected by the policy—like the Rhodes Scholarship and Fulbright fellowships—and hundreds of recognized student groups elect leaders in and outside of of single-gender social organizations.

Melton and Shelemay’s committee will have to decide whether, and if so, how, the College will investigate cases in which a student group names a member of a single-gender club to its leadership.

The committee will also convene amid continued criticism from alumni, faculty, and students.

While prominent former administrators, national media outlets, and hundreds of women have made their displeasure with the sanctions known, the policy has its supporters among certain varsity coaches, members of Harvard’s highest governing body, various students, and a former Massachusetts Governor (and one-time member of the all-male Fly Club) Deval J. Patrick ’78.

What’s more, a faculty motion set to be considered in the coming weeks could cast a pall over the implementation committee’s work, especially if Former Dean of the College and opponent of the policy Harry R. Lewis ’68 is correct in asserting that a motion approved by members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences could override the College’s sanctions.

—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ramseyfahs.

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