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Khurana Says Pudding Co-ed Move Came at ‘Right Time’

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana
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 applauded the Hasty Pudding Theatricals for its decision to cast women starting fall 2018 in an interview last Friday, noting the move came at the “right time.”

During its 2018 Woman of the Year festivities honoring Mila Kunis in late January, the Pudding announced it would break with nearly 200 years of tradition and welcome women to join its cast next fall. The decision came hours after Kunis phoned at least one member of the Pudding’s graduate board to discuss the move.

The switch to co-ed also comes at a moment when administrators have resolved to sanction members of unrecognized single-gender social groups. The College’s social group penalties—which took effect with the Class of 2021—bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from campus leadership positions, varsity athletic team captaincies, and certain prestigious fellowships.

Khurana commended both undergraduate and graduate members of the troupe for the historic policy reversal in the interview Friday.

“I want to congratulate the student leadership and the alumni who recognized that this was the right time and it’s an important step,” he said.

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Asked how the Pudding’s decision fits into the College’s ongoing implementation of its social group policies, Khurana said his ultimate goal is to create an environment that fosters “a sense of belonging and inclusion” for all undergraduates.

He added this goal applies to both recognized and unrecognized student organizations; the Pudding falls under the former category.

“Our hope is that this is something that all student organizations take into account, whether they’re recognized or unrecognized,” Khurana said.

Khurana said the College did not coordinate the group’s decision, but that what he called the student-led push to make the Pudding’s cast gender-neutral shows some Harvard undergraduates are now seeking more inclusive spaces. Since 2015, undergraduate women unsuccessfully sought to audition for the Pudding’s cast each year in protest of the all-male policy.

In previous interviews—and again on Friday—Khurana cited student sentiment and support as a major reason Harvard must work to become more open and welcoming to undergraduates of all genders and races. Khurana has said he thinks the College’s penalties comprise an important step toward accomplishing that goal.

“When given the opportunity to choose spaces that [are] more inclusive our students lean in that direction,” Khurana said Friday. “It seems to me those are the kinds of places they’re attracted to.”

During the interview, Khurana also seemed to particularly tie the Pudding’s decision to go co-ed to what he sees as a wave of student leadership following in the wake of the College’s sanctions.

Asked Friday which groups on campus may be subject to the penalties, Khurana did not directly respond and instead mentioned that a range of organizations are now opting to go co-ed.

“I’m hearing about organizations with musical backgrounds and stuff reconsidering how they did [things]—and artistic organizations, not just in our university but other places as well,” Khurana said.

In addition to the Pudding, some other college performing arts groups have also recently chosen to abandon their single-gender status. In Sept. 2016, a woman received a callback for Harvard’s historically all-male Krokodiloes a capella group for the first time. And at Yale, historically all-male a capella groups Wiffenpoofs and Whim ’n Rhythm announced last week they would consider admitting hopefuls of all genders, despite their historically single-gender status.

Khurana said the Pudding’s decision means the “criteria that matter,” rather than past traditions, will determine who can participate in the cast.

Following the announcement, women across Harvard said they planned to audition for the Pudding’s cast next semester.

“This changes the whole game,” said Chloe Saracco ’21, who intends to try out next year.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at michael.xie@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at caroline.engelmayer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13

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