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The Office of Student Life made the unprecedented decision to place religious group Harvard College Faith in Action on probation on Feb. 22, after it was discovered that the group had asked a woman leader to step down from her position because of her relationship with another woman.
We have previously opined that HCFA was unequivocally wrong to have done so, but we are also disappointed that the OSL has been so unclear and inconsistent regarding the nature of HCFA’s punishment.
For student groups who have failed to complete the mandatory annual renewal of their College recognition, the OSL defines probation as removing a wide array of privileges, including the ability to host events on campus and receive Harvard funding. Previously, administrators have repeatedly declined to specify whether these same penalties would apply to HCFA. Since then, Christian Union—HCFA's parent organization—has stated the group will lose neither of those privileges. HCFA’s weekly worship service, Doxa, has been held in Yenching Auditorium on campus even after the announcement of the probation.
It is important to acknowledge that the reports of this leniency have only come from Christian Union, which has a vested interest in HCFA’s wellbeing. The administration and OSL have not issued a statement on what HCFA’s probation entails, leaving concerned students in the dark. Given the nature of the allegations against HCFA, which indicate that this organization discriminates against BGLTQ members of our community, the OSL ought to clearly and transparently identify how exactly the probation will affect HCFA.
Yet if Christian Union is to be believed, the probation will not be have any immediate practical effect. Any effort to claim that the loss of other, minor privileges constitutes a serious punishment strains credulity. We call on the OSL to reconsider this punishment. Alternatively, if the punishment is in fact harsher than the Christian Union claims, the OSL should offer clarification as to what exactly this decision entails.
As it apparently stands, this punishment fails to revoke any of the privileges of a recognized student organization from HCFA. It is at best a slap on the wrist. The argument could even be made that the OSL would have been better off not issuing any punishment in the first place. As the first such probation of its type, this action had the opportunity to set a standard of conduct for organizations that do not adhere to values of inclusivity and respect. By letting HCFA off the hook, the OSL has damaged its credibility as an enforcer of those values, and sets a dangerous precedent for other groups that may seek to ignore these policies.
If OSL is in fact unwilling to further penalize HCFA, we call on the UC to unilaterally cut off this organization from Council funding. It should not delay in taking on the moral leadership that OSL has failed to exhibit itself.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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