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Sanctions Faculty Committee Quietly Resumes 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.
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

The faculty committee that proposed a ban on social groups at Harvard continued its deliberations last week as it considers revisions to its initial proposal, according to three individuals with direct knowledge of the event.

The committee met on Sept. 1, roughly two months after it released a 22-page preliminary report recommending that the College forbid students from joining all “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations”—including co-ed groups—with the goal of eliminating these organizations from campus entirely by May 2022.

The committee’s discussions seemed slated to end last semester; in an email sent to members on May 2, committee co-chair and Music professor Suzannah E. Clark called a gathering held on May 26 “our final meeting.” And Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith in late April 2017 denied a member’s request to extend the body’s work into the fall semester.

But amid renewed criticism from professors and the threats of lawsuits, the committee, which is set to release a final report later in the fall, has started meeting again. At the Friday gathering, members examined a set of new documents not previously reviewed by the committee, according to one member granted anonymity by The Crimson to discuss confidential committee proceedings. The committee plans to meet again after holding three drop-in faculty-only discussion sessions on Sept 11., Sept. 14, and Sept. 15.

Administrators announced the formation of the committee in January 2017 and charged it with re-evaluating Harvard’s penalties on members of social groups. Starting with the Class of 2021, these sanctions bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from certain fellowships, student leadership positions, and athletic team captaincies.

Committee co-chairs Clark and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.

Over the course of last semester, the committee—composed of faculty, students, and administrators—met every few weeks in different buildings across campus, usually on Friday mornings, to debate the future of Harvard’s social group policy.

On May 12, roughly a month before it released its preliminary report, the committee conducted a straw poll vote on ten options ranging from the social group ban to cancelling Harvard’s efforts to regulate undergraduate social life. The Crimson later reported that the proposed ban received just seven votes from the committee, making it the third-most popular option considered.

Shortly before publication of The Crimson’s article in late July, committee leadership sent an email to members discussing the forthcoming story and condemning what they viewed as a breach of the body’s strict confidentiality policy, according to two members.

That policy forbids members from bringing phones to committee meetings last semester and instructs them not to speak to the press, except to describe their own comments made during meetings.

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

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