A First Vote on the Final Clubs

The failure of the Lewis motion should be read as support for the social group policy.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences issued its first large-scale opinion on the sanctions Tuesday, with the defeat via paper ballot of the motion introduced by former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 motion to not “discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students” for membership in “any lawful organization.” The failure of this motion is the largest barometer yet of faculty opinion on the administration’s policies regarding unrecognized student groups, and ought to be read as support for the administration.

Especially because faculty governance is so important, much can be interpreted from this vote, as it was the first of its kind that fully measured faculty support in the year and a half since the first social organization policy was implemented. Of course, voting for or against the Lewis motion is not equal to an up-or-down vote on the social group policy itself. The motion has limitations and nuances that could constitute barriers to fully using it as a benchmark to gauge Faculty opinion.

In this light, the College cannot sit content on its laurels, having achieved a first show of faculty support. The debate over the Lewis motion highlights the many tensions between the College’s commitments to needs of inclusion and belonging as well as upholding the right to freely associate in our society. The College must consider these issues further, thinking and finding ways to reconcile them fully as the debate over its social group policies continues.

Regardless of the limitations of the Lewis motion, or the inevitably continuing discussion of the social group policies, we appreciate the decision to finally put the motion to a vote, and we hope to see greater expediency on matters like this in the future. After the long history of Lewis’s proposal, we are glad to see the Faculty make its collective opinion clear, and hope the College will contemplate this when considering future policies.

While the defeat of the Lewis motion ends one dimension of the debate over the College’s policies, the future of unrecognized social groups at Harvard is far from certain. Existing policies influence the Class of 2021, and proposed ones may affect future classes. The role and actions of the final clubs and other social organizations have changed drastically over the last few decades, and any policies will end up shaping their future character and their influence on student life. It is imperative that the administration and faculty devise a solution that will be beneficial to Harvard and its values.


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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