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On Social Group Ban, Khurana Keeps Quiet

Dean Khurana
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana pictured in 2016.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana all but refused to discuss a proposal to forbid membership in Harvard social groups in an interview Monday afternoon.

This summer, a committee charged with re-evaluating Harvard’s year-old social group penalties released an interim report recommending that “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations” be “phased out” by May 2022. If approved, this ban will replace the College’s current social group policy, which—starting with the Class of 2021—bars members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from campus leadership positions, athletic team captaincies, and certain fellowships.

During the Monday interview, Khurana, who co-chairs the committee that recommended the ban, declined to comment on whether he supports a social group ban and did not answer questions about how the committee formulated its proposal. The committee will release its final report at the end of the month, and University President Drew G. Faust will have the final say over the recommendations.

The Crimson reported this summer that the proposal to phase out social groups received just seven votes from the 27-member committee, making it only the third-most popular option considered.

Khurana did not answer a question asking how the committee’s third choice became its formal proposal.

“A leak such as the one that happened, which breaches the confidentiality agreement, can have a serious ripple effect on future committees at the University,” Khurana said in reply. “In light of staying true to the confidentiality agreement which we all agreed to, I’m not going to speak to the process by which the committee’s work is being done.”

Khurana said the committee remains “deeply hurt” by the fact that one or more of its members released “confidential information” to The Crimson.

The committee’s report did not mention the two options that received the most votes in its interim report. The most popular option—which garnered 12 votes–suggested Harvard form a new committee to monitor the school’s final clubs, while the next-most popular option (which earned 11 votes) involved banning all Harvard organizations that select members on the basis of race, sex, or socioeconomic status.

Asked why these options were left out of the report, Khurana did not directly respond.

“I will continue to adhere to the confidentiality agreement that all committee members agreed to,” Khurana said. Over the course of the interview, Khurana repeated that statement almost 10 times.

Khurana gave the same answer to a question asking why the committee did not choose to recommend either of the other options.

He declined to comment on whether the committee communicated with Faust or members of the Harvard Corporation during its deliberations. Asked whether he has a plan to implement a social group ban should Faust approve it, Khurana again said he could not violate the confidentiality agreement of the committee.

“The purpose of a confidentiality agreement like this is that each committee member can feel free to speak in an unhindered way without concern that their perspective or point of view will be taken out of context, and to ensure that every question can be asked,” he said.

Khurana displayed a similar reticence when asked about a Faculty motion explicitly designed to kill the College’s social group policy. Computer Science professor and Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 filed the motion, which declares the College shall not “discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students” for joining “any lawful organization,” in August 2017.

Professors are slated to discuss the motion at the monthly Faculty of Arts and Sciences meeting on Oct. 3, and will vote on the proposal at their next meeting in November. The Faculty debated the College’s penalties at length last year.

Asked whether he believes the Lewis motion, if passed, will invalidate the College’s social group penalties, Khurana declined to comment. Khurana also did not say whether he would continue to pursue the College’s social group policy, or something similar, if Lewis’s motion passes.

“I am personally committed to creating an environment where every student is treated with respect and dignity,” he said.

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

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

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