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Harvard FAS Dean Hoekstra Convenes Committee on Classroom Norms

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra is convening a faculty committee to address classroom norms.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra is convening a faculty committee to address classroom norms. By Aiyana G. White
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra is convening a faculty committee to address classroom norms, she announced at an FAS meeting Tuesday amid heightened concerns over academic freedom and classroom disruptions by pro-Palestine student activists.

Tuesday’s gathering marked the first formal meeting of the FAS since interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 assumed office following Claudine Gay’s surprise resignation Jan. 2. The faculty last convened on Dec. 5 as Gay’s controversial congressional testimony was taking place.

The new committee is the latest in a series of efforts by top administrators — including Hoekstra’s own civil discourse initiative — to mend campus divisions over the war in Gaza with productive dialogue.

Hoekstra said the new committee would lead the conversation on how to make classrooms into spaces where students and faculty can engage with “curiosity and respect” — a task, she said, that “rests on principles and cultural norms that are not necessarily self-evident to our students.”

But the committee’s focus on the integrity of the classroom also reflects increased worries over protests disrupting Harvard’s academic activities.

Under Garber, Harvard administrators — Hoekstra included — have signaled a stricter stance on enforcing the University’s policies around student protests, which are forbidden in classrooms, dormitories, dining halls, libraries, and Harvard offices.

In recent months, as division over the war in Gaza has swept campus, demonstrators have — on at least two occasions — marched through academic buildings and interrupted lectures. In November, nine students staged a 24-hour occupation of University Hall.

Several students have faced Harvard College Administrative Board proceedings for their involvement in the occupation or other protests.

Last month, Dean for Faculty Affairs Nina Zipser held a training for faculty on how to manage disruptions, and FAS administrators released guidelines in conjunction with the Harvard University Police Department for instructors in the event of a classroom disruption.

Hoekstra also alluded to the crisis facing Harvard as the University has confronted intense public scrutiny and criticism over its handling of student protests, antisemitism, and Islamophobia.

“I can’t control what happens on X or in the media more generally, but I assure you that as dean, I will defend the rights of our community to continue our work,” Hoekstra said.

In addition to the committee, Hoekstra announced the appointment of Brenda D. Tindal as her senior advisor on academic community engagement. Tindal also serves as chief campus curator of the FAS.

At Tuesday’s meeting, faculty attendees also overwhelmingly passed a proposal to broaden the disciplinary actions available to the Ad Board and Honor Council, which enforce Harvard’s student conduct and academic integrity policies.

Under the proposal, the Ad Board and Honor Council could require students to “successfully complete an educational program” in place of or alongside other penalties.

The proposal — which was previously discussed at December’s FAS meeting — will take effect July 1.

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana said the change would “align more closely” with the educational mission of the College by allowing students to “learn from their decisions.”

Currently, the Ad Board and Honor Council can issue a range of sanctions to students who violate College policies, spanning from warnings to temporary withdrawal requirements to expulsions.

The proposal would allow the Ad Board and Honor Council to “consider mitigating circumstances and delay the effective date of the requirement to withdraw” — a change from the current rules, which merely state that a withdrawal requirement “ordinarily is effective immediately.”

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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CollegeFASFAS AdministrationFacultyProtestsHopi HoekstraIsrael Palestine