By Hailey Novis
Khurana, the USGSO, and student-athletes.
By HAILEY NOVIS and CAROLINE CRONIN
The week before Spring Break, the College and all its constituents operate on a last-leg mentality amidst a flurry of midterms, theses, meets and matches, and the panic-induced hysteria of finalizing summer internships and next term plans. Students of all years do their best to have fun with Housing Day and spring break trips while succeeding in all that is expected of them. It is in the middle of this chaotic rush that Dean Rakesh Khurana, of Cabot House, has dropped the “USGSO Implementation Committee Final Report” through a campus wide email from firstname.lastname@example.org, which students received after 1:00pm on Monday, March 6th.
In this email, Khurana shares the “Final Report of the Implementation Committee for the Policy on Membership in Single Gender Social Organizations,” dated February 17, 2017. He states that he is accepting the majority of the Committee’s recommendations and asking for further review of two points: (1) the treatment of women’s groups and (2) the extension of the policy to large bureaucratic student organizations such as the Undergraduate Council (a governing student body of sorts) and The Harvard Crimson (a campus newspaper). Khurana makes sure to intersperse these statements with pathos-oriented claims that aim to smother more specific questions. The adage, “No one should have to comp community,” accomplishes such while proving that he is capable of understanding complex undergrad jargon!
This most recent email comes last in a series of emails and controversial announcements that have plagued undergraduates and affiliates of the Harvard community for almost a year now. What began as a noble campaign against the horrors of sexual assault, at least in name, has since grown into a tyrannical attack on the rights of students and student organizations. After publishing the initial campus survey and making announcements that a committee would review its results, the administration has shied away from stating that its primary motivations are anything but securing the “community” and “inclusivity” of Harvard. There are few (if any) that argue these tenets of Harvard’s mission cannot be positive influences on a student’s experience. Therefore, criticism comes not from those who necessarily dispute the intentions of the new policy, but, rather, those who disagree with its execution and consequences.
A particular section of the “Final Report” has sent many athletes into a justified outrage. Under the “Athletics” section heading of the report, on page 14, the report reads,
“It is observed that some of the athletic teams are already quite segregated from the rest of the student body. This new policy may provide an incentive for them to incorporate into more inclusive activities and spaces, extending their social activities beyond their team. We also note that the athletes’ time commitments are not unlike those of some musicians, researchers working in labs, or students heavily committed to PBHA or other civic groups.”
As Harvard student athletes we commit ourselves to representing Harvard to the best of our ability on the field, court, and river. We can spend around 30 hours a week with teammates and coaches, striving to perfect the games and leave nothing to chance. This time commitment defines most athletes’ experience at the College and means that the people with whom we spend the majority of our time are other athletes. The same is true of students who devote their energies to student publications, service groups, research, and more. However, Khurana’s and the Committee’s listing of these few specific examples gives the impression that all Harvard students can be reduced down to the one extracurricular activity that, apparently, defines them. Athletes are not just athletes. Writers are not just writers. PBHA leaders are not just PBHA leaders. It is more than likely that these students fall into numerous activity categories and are doing their best to make all of them work.
Furthermore, the social groups created through bonds with teammates are crucial to the success of the teams. Beyond the physical exertion, the mental and emotional stamina is sustained, in large part, through the support of devoted and understanding teammates. This is especially true for female athletes. The Women’s Basketball team, for example, has had a stellar season. To support the women and their endeavors, the Women’s Heavyweight Crew team made it a point to attend last week’s games and cheer on our fellow athletes. Two teams that boast some of the strongest women on campus are bonded over what it means to be too tall, too muscly, too big, and – frankly – too good at what we do to care what those descriptions mean outside of real friends and teammates. Recognizing the benefit of this support and the true potential of solidarity is perhaps important this week even more than usual with the celebration of U.N.-designated International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8th.
It has been our experience that Harvard students are constantly reaching out and making connections through a variety of mediums to support our peers, not the least of which is athletics. If Dean Khurana truly wishes to raise the standards of community and inclusivity at Harvard College, we ask that at least he do it without dismissing the efforts and accomplishments of women’s groups, athletes, and other students dedicated to a number of demanding passions.
Hailey Novis (email@example.com) is a Varsity athlete, a manager of Harvard Student Agencies, a Boston lab researcher, and teaches children with disabilities to swim on the weekends. But perhaps she should be “extending social activities beyond [her] team.”
Caroline Cronin (firstname.lastname@example.org) has already read Chaucer.