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College Will Debut Plan to Enforce Sanctions Next Semester

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana holds professorships in Sociology in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and Leadership Development at Harvard Business School.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana holds professorships in Sociology in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and Leadership Development at Harvard Business School. By Derek G. Xiao
By Hannah Natanson and Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writers

The College will finalize a plan to enforce its penalties on members of single-gender social groups by the start of next semester, Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana said in an interview Thursday.

Khurana’s statement comes three days after the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, formally voted to keep the sanctions unchanged for at least the next five years. That vote put an abrupt end to more than a year of tumultuous campus debate over the policy, which—starting with the current freshman class—bars members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from campus leadership positions, varsity athletic team captaincies, and several prestigious fellowships.

Khurana said he is aware students—and particularly members of the Class of 2021, who arrived on campus this fall—may be confused about the policy and that he hopes to clear up the uncertainty as soon as possible.

“We ask people’s patience while we make sure that we send clear information and clear guidelines,” he said. “We can’t answer all questions right now. I apologize to the students who have those questions.”

Khurana said Thursday that, in crafting a plan for enforcement, he and other administrators will draw on reports issued by two previous College committees tasked with reviewing the penalties, as well as on a letter sent by University President Drew G. Faust and Corporation Senior Fellow William F. Lee ’72. Faust and Lee sent the letter to Harvard affiliates Tuesday announcing the results of the Corporation’s vote.

Khurana said he will work with the Office of Student Life, the Office of Undergraduate Education, and “various College offices” over the next few weeks to develop a plan to enact the penalties.

Khurana said he will particularly look to recommendations issued by one of the two committees in March 2017. That report recommended that the College’s Honor Council help enforce the sanctions and that all-female groups receive a five-year grace period to go co-ed. It also suggested the College should consider barring members of single-gender clubs from leadership positions in both the Undergraduate Council and The Crimson as well as all other recognized student groups.

Khurana declined Thursday to say whether he planned to follow any of these recommendations. Instead, he said he plans to review these suggestions for their alignment with the “spirit of the policy.”

“Our goals are to get this information to the students as soon as possible,” Khurana said. “I expect that’s going to take us a few weeks, but we hope that by the time students come back for the spring semester, we will be able to answer many of their key questions.”

Khurana said he is unsure how he will communicate the exact details of administrators’ plan to implement the sanctions to students. But he vigorously denied the possibility of another report.

“No, no, no,” he said.

Across 19 months of debate over the College’s social group penalties, two different College committees produced three reports on the subject totaling more than 90 pages. The sanctions also sparked fierce debate in Cambridge.

At one point shortly after Faust announced the penalties in May 2016, hundreds of women took to Harvard Yard to protest the social group policy, chanting slogans like, “Hear Her, Harvard!”

Reflecting on the intervening months since Faust debuted the sanctions, Khurana—who has become the face of the policy on campus—said he thought he had learned at least one clear lesson.

“People shout their anger,” he said. “You have to be very empathetic, and recognize that often that anger is just passion from a particular point of view.”

“It’s really important to be hard on the problem and easy on each other,” Khurana said.

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

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