Smith Says College Isn’t Asking for Oath in Sanctions Enforcement

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said he does not believe the College’s new social group policy requires an oath pledging a student is not a member of a final club or Greek organization, despite a Faculty motion alleging the opposite.

At the April 4 Faculty meeting, biology professor David A. Haig—a vocal opponent of the College’s policy on single-gender social organizations—presented a motion which stated, “This faculty does not approve of Harvard College requiring a student to make an oath, pledge or affirmation about whether the student belongs to a particular organization or category of organizations.”

In an interview last Friday, though, Smith said he disagreed with the premise of Haig’s motion—for the policy, as he read it, does not require such an affirmation.

“I don’t think the College at this point is asking for any oaths, and therefore, debating whether or not we think we should have one is not high on my agenda here,” Smith said.

Faculty Meeting
Several Harvard faculty stand outside a Faculty meeting earlier this month.

Haig’s motion was directed at proposed requirement that students applying to leadership positions, athletic captaincies, or postgraduate fellowships sign a document asserting they have not belonged to a single-gender social group in the past year—and will not for “at least one year after their tenure as holder of the fellowship or award.”


“This document should be regarded as an agreement between the individual student and the College,” the implementation report reads.

At the April meeting, the Faculty voted to refer Haig’s motion to a committee tasked with revising or replacing the policy. Haig is a member of that committee.

Smith likened the document signing requirement to other pieces of “paperwork” where students must affirm their understanding of the College’s policies.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable to remind students as they’re moving into something that ‘here’s our policies and rules about something,’” Smith said.

In addition to Haig’s motion, Smith also commented on other Faculty concerns from last week’s meeting.

Smith reiterated his alarm that there were no women elected to the six open seats on the Faculty Council, FAS’s highest governing body. He said that he believes the election procedure of the Council—candidates for Council seats are nominated and voted on by the entire Faculty—is not the place to make changes to encourage a more diverse outcome.

“I’m sure there’s a whole set of other challenges in this that are making the outcome not what we would ideally like to see in this whole thing, and that’s why I’m asking for thoughts outside what I and the Council know,” he said.

At the meetings Smith told Faculty that he will ask the Standing Committee on Women to investigate the disparity.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Faculty voted to approve a schedule change that, starting in the fall of 2018, will extend the length of most courses to 75 minutes with 15 minutes of passing time—eliminating the informal seven minutes of passing time known as “Harvard Time.” Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris first presented the proposed change at March’s Faculty meeting.

Smith said he has no qualms with a last-minute amendment to the schedule legislation by English professor James Engell that allows two hour seminars to begin at 9:45 a.m., the only exception to an otherwise rigid structure.

“I’m mostly concerned with the principles behind it that Dean Harris talked about, and making it much clearer for students when their classes are taking place, making sure the students can move between classes, making sure that we have balance between the parts of campus—the Cambridge part of campus and the Allston part of campus,” he said.

Although the schedule was almost unanimously approved by the Faculty, the meeting was not without controversy. Several math professors questioned the legitimacy of a proposed course requirement in data science.

“I certainly think from day one we’ve tried to reach out to the math department and include them in these discussions,” Smith said.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

—Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.


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