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Diversity Dean Says He Will Not Be Involved With Sanctions

University Hall houses the offices of most of Harvard's central administration, as well as the room where the Faculty of Arts and Sciences typically hold their monthly meeting.
University Hall houses the offices of most of Harvard's central administration, as well as the room where the Faculty of Arts and Sciences typically hold their monthly meeting. By Charles K. Michael
By Hannah Natanson, Crimson Staff Writer

Unlike his predecessor, Harvard’s new associate dean for diversity and inclusion Roland S. Davis will not help develop or negotiate the College’s year-old sanctions on members of single-gender campus social groups.

The penalties, which took effect with the Class of 2021, bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from campus leadership positions, athletic team captaincies, and certain prestigious fellowships. In the run-up to the sanctions’ debut in May 2016, Emelyn A. dela Peña—the diversity dean prior to Davis—worked closely with Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana to formulate the social group policy.

University Hall houses Davis's office.
University Hall houses Davis's office. By Charles K. Michael

But Davis, who was officially named diversity dean in August and started work Oct. 2, said in an interview Saturday that he does not plan to be involved with the social group penalties.

“Neither Dean Khurana nor [Dean of Students Katherine G.] O’Dair have said anything to me with regard to any of the social group issues or the implementation of sanctions—I haven’t had a single conversation about it,” he said. “As far as I know, my job at present will not be involved in any of that.”

“Unless I’m specifically asked by someone—Dean O’Dair or Dean Khurana—my focus will be singular and it will be on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” Davis added.

He said he does not think the College’s attempts to regulate undergraduate social life are “central” to these issues. Administrators’ rationale for the social group policy has shifted over time; most recently, a Harvard committee claimed the sanctions are meant to combat discrimination on campus.

In the interview Saturday, Davis also detailed his priorities as he takes office and his plan of action for the next six months. He said he intends to spend time meeting with students, faculty, and staff and listening to their concerns.

Davis said he has already met with several groups in the roughly two weeks since he arrived in Cambridge, including staffers in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life and members of a College working group for undocumented students.

Davis said he thinks conversations like these will help him figure out how to improve diversity on Harvard’s campus. He added it would be “ridiculously arrogant” to start work and automatically assume he knows “what is needed.”

Davis also said he would be interested in helping out with the University’s ongoing search for its next president, though he said no one has asked him to get involved to date. University President Drew G. Faust announced over the summer that she plans to step down in June 2018.

Since Faust’s announcement, Harvard has mobilized to find the University’s next president: members of the presidential search committee met numerous times over the summer to discuss the process and the qualities they’ll look for in potential candidates.

More recently, several alumni groups including the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance and the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard sent the committee letters urging them to consider a diverse swath of candidates and to prioritize individuals from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Davis said he thinks these calls for diversity are “a good idea.”

“I would love to be involved [with the search],” he said. “If asked, I would absolutely serve in whatever capacity I was asked to serve.”

In the immediate, though, Davis said he wants to focus on students. He urged undergraduates to get in touch via email or stop by his new office in University Hall.

“Anything and everything boils down to the students for me,” he said. “Please stop on by. The more I get to know students, the easier my job will be.”

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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