In a dark development in the on-going saga of Harvard sanctions on members of “unregistered single-gender social organizations,” Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana today sent Harvard students the 46-page “Final Report of the Implementation Committee for the Policy on Membership in Single Gender Social Organizations” along with a statement that he will be accepting “nearly all” of its recommendations. The report is the one that was kept under lock and key for months, and of which even the committee members who wrote it were denied copies. (No red flags there!)
Based on our first glance at the report, the real thing is as bad as we thought, if not worse.
You may be wondering: Whatever happened to the student, faculty, and staff committee empaneled to “revise or replace” the sanctions? Great question.
They’re mentioned in the report mainly as a nuisance — a “Complication of the Committee’s Work”: “[T]he formation of a new faculty committee to review this policy,” the report states, “[has] had a particularly negative effect on conversations with numerous existing stakeholders in the College’s social scene.”
The fact that Khurana has committed to implementing nearly all of the troubling recommendations gives the distinct impression that the formation of the new committee was a dishonest diversionary tactic to kill a motion by faculty members that would have challenged the sanctions regime. That motion was to adopt a nondiscrimination statement specifying that “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.” If Harvard administrators had any kind of accountability, the use of such a tactic might pose a real problem. But given that they can apparently read faculty emails without any real consequences, that might be too much to ask.
One interesting aspect of the report is that it recommends the Harvard University Honor Council be put in charge of inquisitorial efforts for those suspected of fibbing when asked whether they are, or have ever been, a member of the Communist Par— I mean, single-gender sorority, fraternity, or final club.
So it looks like a modern-day version of the Secret Court is back, and this time, it’s enlisting students along with the faculty and staff traditionally tasked with ferreting out those with associations too unsavory for Harvard. Given that students compete with each other for the very positions that the students on the Honor Council will have the power to deny (athletic captaincies, scholarships, leadership of student groups, etc.) this is obviously and unmistakably ripe for abuse.
FIRE is extremely disturbed by this latest development, and you can expect more analysis from us on the details of the report in the coming days.
In the meantime, please visit our Take Action page and write Khurana and President Drew Gilpin Faust to demand they to put a stop to this illiberal policy before it’s too late.