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The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to include the College’s penalties on members of single-gender social groups in the student handbook Tuesday, ending more than a year and a half of turmoil and ensuring once and for all that the controversial sanctions are here to stay.
The handbook vote posed the final hurdle in what has been a tumultuous path to finalization and legitimacy for the College’s social group policy, which bars members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from campus leadership positions, the captaincies of varsity athletic teams, and from receiving College endorsement for certain fellowships.
University President Drew G. Faust debuted the penalties in May 2016—but after faculty charged they had not had sufficient input in crafting the policy, administrators formed at least two committees charged with the power to review, revise, and even replace the sanctions. Faculty members also at times offered vocal opposition to the penalties in the form of anti-sanctions legislation, speeches, and posts online and on social media.
But ultimately, the sanctions survived unscathed—the committees did not alter the penalties and the anti-sanctions legislation failed to pass. Now, almost the exact text of the original policy Faust announced in 2016 is enshrined for the foreseeable future in the student handbook.
The Faculty voted to include the sanctions in the handbook with little fanfare at the March iteration of its monthly meeting. The vote was verbal—not balloted—with Faculty casting their votes by saying either “Aye” or “Nay.”
The Aye’s outnumbered the Nay’s, and so the sanctions entered the handbook.
The policy’s inclusion in the handbook means in part that students will not have to sign an oath specifically affirming their commitment to the policy, as had been proposed at one point over the last year and a half.
The College released a long-awaited implementation plan for the sanctions last week, including plans to ask the Faculty to include them in the handbook. The plan revealed that the Administrative Board will be responsible for enforcing the finalized social group policy.
Former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68—a vocal opponent of the sanctions since their inception—questioned the Ad Board’s ability to enforce the policy at Tuesday’s meeting. He asked how the Ad Board would discover whether a student applying for or holding a leadership position is also a member of an unrecognized social organization.
Associate Dean of Student Engagement Alex Miller—who attended the meeting—responded on behalf of the Office of Student Life Thursday. He said that, as with all other Ad Board cases, social group cases will be “reactive.” He added the method through which the Ad Board will carry out the implementation will be up to the board.
Administrators have previously said the College will not enforce the sanctions by actively searching for students who violate the policy. Officials also said Harvard will not seek or act on “anonymous complaints” to discover violators.
Lewis also said at the meeting he thinks the language included in the handbook makes it unclear whether certain groups are to the sanctions. He specifically mentioned the Harvard Knights of Columbus and Daughters of Isabella, single-gender organizations hosted through the Harvard Catholic Center.
Miller said that, going forward, individual cases will depend on whether the organization is registered with the OSL or not.
Lewis has previously mounted opposition to the penalties. At various points he introduced two separate motions designed to kill the policy; neither ended up passing, the first because Lewis withdrew it.
Lewis’s second recent motion, introduced in fall 2017, stated the College shall not discipline students who join “any lawful organization.” Ultimately, after heated debate, the Faculty voted down his motion at the November meeting, when 130 professors voted against it while 90 supported it.
Biology professor and attendee David A. Haig said Thursday he also feels the handbook language touching on “unrecognized single-gender social organizations” is unclear. Furthermore, he questioned which fellowship endorsements would be subject to the policy.
“When we’re implementing the policy, students will want clarity,” Haig said. “Specifically, I’m not clear on what is a college-administered fellowship.”
Miller said the policy will only apply to scholarships awarded by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowship.
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.
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