Thursday, August 17, 2017

Guest Post by Professor Daniel Gilbert on the social club policy

This well-intentioned attempt to promote values that the Harvard community generally shares, such as egalitarianism, tramples on other values that the Harvard community generally shares, such as individual responsibility, freedom of choice and assembly, and so on. The USGSO Committee's letter to the faculty states "Core to our stated aspiration is the need to diminish the role of final clubs, fraternities and sororities and/or equivalent exclusive-membership private social clubs on Harvard's campus." If the last three words of this sentence were true, there would be few objections to the proposal. But they are not true. The committee proposes to punish students for engaging in lawful behavior off campus and not on it. In so doing, the proposal abrogates fundamental rights enjoyed by all American citizens, and treats our students like children whose behavior must be coerced rather than as adults who can and should be making decisions for themselves. There are a host of other things Harvard could consider doing to achieve its goals without resorting to draconian and paternalistic sanctions, and yet sanctions are the first and only thing it has ever tried. In addition, as Prof. Engell noted last year during a faculty meeting, Harvard's 5th statute clearly states that decisions about disciplinary matters rest with the faculty, and not with the President. The faculty, and only the faculty, should decide whether to accept the USGSO Committee's proposal.

Daniel Gilbert
Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology

Cross posted with permission from the FAS Wiki


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