Committee Set to Consider Motion Against Social Org. Sanctions

The Faculty Council’s newly-elected docket committee is set to consider a motion filed last spring that some professors believe could prevent College sanctions against members of single-gender social organizations from taking effect. Representatives of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, though, are mum about the motion’s potential power.

Twelve professors from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences filed the motion last May in response to a new policy that, starting with the Class of 2021, will prohibit students in unrecognized single-gender social groups from holding extracurricular leadership positions or receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes and the Marshall scholarships.

Resolving that the College “shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join,” last spring’s motion cited “recent administrative proposals” as a motivation behind seeking to limit “Harvard’s control over students’ lives.”

Two of the motion’s signatories—former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and Classics professor Richard F. Thomas—said a successful motion would strike down the policy completely, given that Harvard’s organizational statutes place the College “under the immediate charge” of FAS.

Secretary of the Faculty Susan L. Lively and FAS spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven declined to say whether the motion would in fact preclude the policy from taking effect.


“The legislative process needs to play itself out,” Lively wrote in a statement provided by Cowenhoven.

Still, Lewis is confident the motion is in line with the Faculty’s history of voting and enacting “rules and regulations related to Harvard College.” Although University President Drew G. Faust has repeatedly endorsed Khurana’s recommendations on social life, Lewis does not believe Faust could prevent the Faculty from voting down the sanctions.

The Faculty Council’s docket committee must schedule the motion for a debate and vote of the full Faculty. Still, FAS rules of procedure all but ensure that the motion will be taken up for consideration at an upcoming Faculty meeting, at the soonest during the next such meeting on Oct. 4.

Comparative Literature professor John T. Hamilton, History professor Alison F. Johnson, and Religion professor Parimal G. Patil—the members of last year’s Docket Committee—all declined or did not respond to request for comment on the motion.

Since its release in early May, the College’s unprecedented policy has drawn criticism from students, faculty, and alumni. In addition to graduate members of single-gender groups and national representatives from Greek organizations, some prominent Harvard figures, including former University President Lawrence H. Summers, have questioned whether the sanctions represent a step too far in the College’s efforts to create a more inclusive campus. Days after the move was announced, hundreds of women marched on Harvard Yard decrying the policy as particularly unfair to women’s groups.

The policy does have its proponents. Three varsity coaches and the treasurer of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, published letters in support of the policy.

The sanctions have also found a faculty supporter in Claudine Gay, Government professor and Dean of Social Science.

“I strongly support the new policy on single-gender social organization[s], which speaks powerfully to Harvard’s commitment to building an inclusive community,” Gay wrote in an email. “This [policy] is an important step in combatting gender-based discrimination on campus, and preparing our students for the realities of the modern world.”

Critics and proponents of the final club sanctions are holding back speculation on the results of a Faculty vote at an upcoming meeting.

“I prefer not to speculate on the views of other faculty members; we will have a fuller sense of the range of opinions after the faculty have had an opportunity to discuss the policy (and the motion) later this year,” Gay wrote.

Lewis, too, was unsure how the Faculty would vote and said he has not actively lobbied his colleagues to support the motion.

“Almost everyone who has signed the motion are [professors] who got in touch with me after The Crimson printed my letter to Dean Khurana, so I don’t know how many others might be interested in supporting it, or what will happen when it comes up,” Lewis said. “It will be a good discussion regardless.”

Motion signatory and psychology professor Steven Pinker said that Khurana invited him to a “very pleasant lunch at which we discussed the issue.”

Pinker said Khurana has met with several signatories of the committee individually to discuss the sanctions. Another signatory who spoke on the condition of anonymity also met with Khurana. Both Pinker and the other signatory said they hadn’t heard of any of the other professors withdrawing their support for the motion after such a meeting.

College Spokesperson Rachael Dane did not confirm the meetings, writing in an email that Khurana does not “comment on specific meetings,” though she added that Khurana “regularly meets with his faculty colleagues to hear their perspectives and points of view on a number of issues.”

—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ramseyfahs.

–Staff writer Jonathan G. Adler can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JonathanGAdler.


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