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On Sanctions, Students Await Final Answers

Prospective new members attend an information session on the sorority rush happening this weekend.
Prospective new members attend an information session on the sorority rush happening this weekend.
By Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writer

Wednesday’s announcement that a historic policy set to penalize members of single-gender groups could be “revised or replaced” has left some students hopeful that the sanctions will change—while still others are calling on the University to stay its course and limit the influence of the organizations.

Prospective new members attend an information session on the sorority rush happening this weekend.
Prospective new members attend an information session on the sorority rush happening this weekend. By Zennie L. Wey

In emails to College and Faculty affiliates Wednesday, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote that a new committee—comprised of faculty, students, and staff—will be tasked with studying “whether the policy can be improved, either by changing aspects of its existing structure or through some broader revision.”

The original policy, slated to take effect with the Class of 2021, would bar members of final clubs, fraternities, and sororities from holding leadership positions or receiving College endorsement for fellowships. With Wednesday’s announcement, though, a revised or entirely new policy could be approved by University President Drew G. Faust in the fall of 2017.

Undergraduate Council President Yasmin Z. Sachee ’18 and Vice President Cameron K. Khansarinia ’18—who criticized the existing sanctions throughout their campaign—praised administrators for including more student and faculty opinions on the new committee as they reconsider the College’s policy.

“For such an important policy, wherever the cards fall—if they do fall in the end—it’s important for us to include as many voices as possible,” Khansarinia said.

Madeleine L. Lapuerta ’20 took a similar view, writing in an email that “the previous proposed sanction on single-sex organizations lacked necessary specificity in order to truly target and attempt to abolish the atmosphere of sexual assault on Harvard's campus.”

“I am glad that its detrimental broadness has been recognized and, as a result, that the sanctions could be positively altered,” she added.

Davis Lazowski ’19 said there was “room for improvement” in the original policy, but added that he believed “there needs to be some changes to the final clubs,” and “would be very disappointed if that didn’t happen.”

In a November survey conducted by The Crimson, more than 53 percent of surveyed undergraduates reported an unfavorable view of Harvard’s current policy—compared to the 26.1 percent of respondents in favor of the sanctions.

While students generally discussed possible changes the new committee may recommend, Harvey A. Silverglate, an attorney and member of a legal team advising the all-male Fly Club, called the formation of the committee a “pernicious procedural trick.”

“It’s a classic example of a situation where the administration has changed the appearances but not the substance,” he said. “I’ve looked at it, and turned it upside down and inside out, and every time I look at it it says the same thing to me: ‘we’ve decided this, but for window dressing we’re going to give the faculty and students a role. But that role will not change what we do.’”

In the email announcing the new committee, Khurana wrote that administrators “take seriously the call from members of the Faculty to have further input into how the University should best solve the problems presented by the USGSOs.”

“We will also ensure that the Faculty has the opportunity to comment on the committee’s report before any recommendations are conveyed to President Faust,” he wrote.

Calling the original sanctions “an important step forward,” Amelia Y. Goldberg ’19 said the new committee “seems kind of like an unfortunate backsliding.”

“However, I do see this as something that is not fully determined,” she said. “It seems they’re trying to revise the policy but not necessarily eliminate it, so I’m hopeful it will somehow manage to go forward.”

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson contributed reporting to this story.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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