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UC Leaders Call for More Student Involvement in Implementation of Sanctions

Sunday Night with the UC
Catherine L. Zhang '19 and Nicholas D. Boucher '19 preside over an Undergraduate Council Meeting.
Undergraduate Council President Catherine L. Zhang ’19 and Vice President Nicholas D. Boucher ’19 urged administrators to consider student opinion as the College implements its penalties on members of single-gender social groups in an interview Sunday.

In Dec. 2017, after over a year of debate about the proposed penalties—which prevent members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from holding campus leadership positions, athletic team captancies, and from receiving College endorsement for certain fellowships—the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, voted to formally adopt the policy.

In the interview, Zhang and Boucher said they remained concerned with what they called a lack of student involvement in the ongoing implementation process. The College released a final implementation plan for the policy in early March.

Associate Dean of Student Engagement Alex R. Miller wrote in an emailed statement that the College has met with students throughout the implementation process and will continue to do so as it the implementation plan is finalized.

“Throughout the course of the process of drafting the implementation policy, we have had numerous meetings in which the UC and other student representatives were engaged, and since then the policy has been voted on and will be placed into the student handbook,” Miller wrote. “Student feedback is always a priority and we will continue to work closely with our students with the goal of making the framework operational in the fall.”

The Corporation also voted in December to mandate a review of the penalties roughly five years after their implementation. In addition to that review, the Committee on Student Life—comprising students and faculty—will be tasked with making “periodic, interim reports” to Faculty members and administrators, according to a letter sent by University President Drew G. Faust and Corporation Senior Fellow William F. Lee announcing the Corporation’s decision.

As president and vice president of the Council, Zhang and Boucher serve as co-chairs of that committee, along with Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair.

But, according to Zhang, the duo hoped to have more involvement in hashing out the final details of the policy’s implementation.

“We had been told we would have a seat at the table, but right now, we haven’t been shown much besides our involvement with the Committee on Student Life,” Zhang said.

“Because right now, where the directive is coming from, is from people in the [Office of Student Life], from administrators in the OSL,” she added. “Students’ rallying cry is getting more student representation and more student voice in the room.”

Boucher said he and Zhang have sought to gather a “broad set of perspectives” from students to bring to administrators.

“I’m not saying there is a disconnect right now,” Boucher said. “But we want to make sure that there is not a disconnect between the people that the policy is going to affect—the people that are tangibly affected by it—and the people writing it.”

Boucher reiterated the position on social group penalties he and Zhang put forward during their campaign for UC leadership last fall. The Zhang and Boucher ticket was the only one—out of three—that broadly supported the College’s efforts to regulate single-gender social groups.

During the campaign, though, the pair said they did not support the penalties as outlined by administrators at the time. On Sunday, Zhang and Boucher said they still have similar reservations about the policy, specifically its potential effects on female groups. In its final implementation plan, the College announced it had canceled a proposed “bridge” program that would have allowed all-female final clubs and sororities a longer period of time to go gender-neutral.

“I think one problem that we talked about specifically was how this could affect women’s groups on campus,” Boucher said. “And that’s not to say that women’s groups can or should or need to be treated any differently. But it is recognizing that there is value to places that are safe spaces for individuals identifying as women.”

“And I think that was one concern that we had that perhaps is addressed in some ways, but isn’t necessarily fully addressed,” Boucher added.

—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at jonah.berger@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98

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