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Undergraduate Council President Shaiba Rather ’17 and Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17 addressed the Faculty Council Wednesday and fielded questions about ongoing campus discussions regarding final clubs and Greek organizations.
They met with the Council ahead of this semester’s first full meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences scheduled for next week, when professors are expected to discuss a motion to oppose a historic College policy that penalizes members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations. The policy—which starting with the Class of 2021 will bar members of such groups from holding leadership positions and receiving top fellowships—has incited criticism across campus from both students and faculty.
“Shaiba and I sort of discussed the highly politicized moment at Harvard,” Banks said about the Faculty Council meeting.
According to Rather, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith invited the two UC leaders to talk to the Faculty Council, FAS’s highest elected body.
While Rather and Banks would not comment on specific questions asked at the meeting, they said they had anticipated some of the topics.
“I think, at this point, Danny and I have wrestled with the questions they asked, as well as many people at this College,” Rather said.
“The questions we heard at the Faculty [Council] meeting are questions that have crossed our minds before,” she added.
The Council also discussed the College policy at their last meeting, at which former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and several other professors presented their motion to oppose the new penalties. The 12 professors who signed the motion argue that the policy infringes upon students’ freedom of association, writing that “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”
It is unclear whether a motion approved by the full FAS Faculty could strike down the policy.
Germanic Languages and Literatures professor John T. Hamilton, a member of the Faculty Council, said his position on the issue “is complicated.”
“I, on the one hand, appreciate a certain kind of freedom for students to belong to whatever organization they choose,” he said. “On the other hand, one has to be cautious in an effort not to discriminate, also trying to grapple with the issue of organizations that discriminate.”
Government professor Danielle S. Allen, a member of the Council, said she appreciated having students weigh in on the discussions about the policy.
“The Faculty Council is listening and learning,” Allen said. “They came and spoke about matters of concern to them, and it was absolutely helpful to have student perspectives.”
Allen said “these kinds of issues of campus culture are extremely difficult.”
“They’re difficult in the abstract and they’re difficult when you take a look at the particularities of institutions,” she added.
Rather and Banks plan to share their thoughts about their Faculty Council presentation and content of the meeting sometime next week, “most likely in an op-ed,” Rather wrote in an email. She said she and Banks appreciated taking part in the Council’s meeting, since “it’s very, very rare” for students to do so.
Students will join faculty, however, on a new committee charged with recommending how to implement the College’s single-gender social organizations policy, the College announced last week. The UC will aid the College in reviewing student nominations for the committee.
In addition to hearing Rather and Bank’s presentation on Wednesday, the Council also started to discuss an annual report on the Faculty, which FAS will publish in late October, Hamilton said, adding that the report will touch on trends in the Faculty, FAS finances, and capital campaign projects like House Renewal.
“Getting the general sense of where the University is at: that’s the major business,” Hamilton said.
—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.
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