BOSTON, Jan. 26, 2017—Late yesterday, Harvard University announced it will reconsider a policy that would have blacklisted members of independent sororities, fraternities, and “final clubs” from leadership of athletic teams and school organizations, and from recommendations for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has led a national campaign (VIDEO) against the policy since it was unilaterally announced last May by Harvard administrators. The policy would shred students’ freedom of association rights.
The decision to reconsider the blacklist policy comes just days before the Harvard College faculty was set to vote on a nondiscrimination resolution that would have challenged the blacklist policy by banning discrimination based on membership in any lawful organization.
“Harvard now has a chance to avoid a mistake of truly historic proportions. It should take it,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “In the 1920s, Harvard’s ‘secret court’ punished students for allegedly being gay, or for too closely associating with those who were. In the 1950s, Harvard punished faculty members for associating with Communists. It’s time that Harvard permanently dumped its practice of punishing people for their associations onto the ash heap of history.”
Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, the architect of the blacklist policy, told The Harvard Crimson yesterday that a new committee of faculty, students, and staff will determine “whether the policy can be improved, either by changing aspects of its existing structure or through some broader revision.” Per the Crimson, the sanctions may be “revised or replaced.”
The policy was endorsed by President Drew Faust. Faculty resistance to the blacklist was led through a resolution introduced by Harry R. Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and former Dean of Harvard College, and joined by 11 faculty colleagues including bestselling author and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker as well as FIRE board member and Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology Richard Losick.
“The real test of whether Harvard is serious about preserving freedom of association will be if it is willing to include prominent faculty critics of the blacklist on the new committee, and whether it will do its work transparently,” said Shibley. “Regardless of what is ultimately decided, FIRE will continue to fight for free association for students at Harvard and across the nation.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.
Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org