Harvard Appoints New Committee to Review Social Policy

A faculty committee considers if there are other means to achieve the non-discrimination goals of a social-organizations policy.

Michael D. SmithCourtesy of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

Following the release yesterday of the report of the committee charged with recommending how to implement Harvard College’s new policy regarding student membership in unrecognized single-gender social organizations (USGSOs), Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael D. Smith announced in a message to faculty members before their meeting this afternoon that he has appointed a second committee to review the College’s policy itself. This new review, formed to address faculty members’ concerns about proposed means to achieve the policy’s goals of gender-neutrality in USGSOs—such as male and female final clubs, fraternities, and sororities—will be co-chaired by College dean Rakesh Khurana (who will thus, in effect, review his own policy) and professor of music Suzannah Clark. Students will be added to the committee later this week.

This committee is charged to:

  • familiarize itself with the current USGSO policy, its accepted implementation, and all available data relating to unrecognized single-gender social organizations. This will include but is not limited to the report of the Implementation Committee, the Task Force on Sexual Assault, Visiting Committee and Overseers reports, student survey responses, and information from other colleges and universities about their experiences with similar types of organizations;
  • consider whether there are other means of achieving our stated goals, including and especially that of fully advancing the non-discrimination objectives reflected in the current policy, and to evaluate whether any would be more effective than our current policy.
  • propose, should more effective means be identified, changes or expansions to the current policy or a new approach.

“Ensuring that our students have non-discriminatory access to social opportunities that help define a Harvard College experience…is an integral part of our ongoing efforts to prepare our students to join in the fellowship of educated people and be leaders and examples for this world,” Smith wrote. “The current USGSO policy addresses the complex issues that surround these organizations and the challenges they have posed for decades to our efforts to provide an inclusive and safe intellectual and social environment for our students. Further input from the faculty may strengthen our commitment to this approach or may yet uncover other approaches that are equally or even more effective at achieving our stated objectives.”

In his message, Smith asked that the committee complete its work by the end of 2016-2017 academic year, with the expectation that it will produce a public report and recommendations by early fall. Smith also noted that “any recommended change to our current policy must be approved” by President Drew Faust.


In addition to the co-chairs, the committee’s membership is as follows:

Paul Barreira, Director of Harvard University Health Services
Theodore Bestor, Reischauer Institute Professor of Social Anthropology; Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
Nathan Fry, Senior Associate Director of Athletics
David Haig, George Putnam Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Alison Johnson, Professor of History
James Kloppenberg, Charles Warren Professor of American History
Luke Leafgren, Allston Burr Assistant Dean for Mather House
Brigitte Libby, Allston Burr Assistant Dean for Pforzheimer House
Daniel Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences
Caroline Light, Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Yukio Lippit, Professor of History of Art and Architecture
Jason Mitchell, Professor of Psychology
Sandra Naddaff, Senior Lecturer on Literature and Comparative Literature; Honorary Associate and Former Master of Mather House; Dean of Harvard Summer School
Katherine O’Dair, Dean of Students
David Pilbeam, Henry Ford II Professor of Human Evolution
Mariano Siskind, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature; Chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Latanya Sweeney, Professor of Government and Technology in Residence; Faculty Dean of Currier House

David Friedrich, Associate Dean of Students, will staff the committee.

Ara Gershengorn, University Attorney, will serve as counsel.

Read more articles by: Jonathan Shaw
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