Even with an unparalleled presidential election in 2016, campus politics remained at the center of conversation at Harvard during the Class of 2017’s time here. Over the course of the seniors’ four years in Cambridge, the College rolled out a controversial policy penalizing members of single-gender final clubs and other off-campus social organizations; the University crafted a new policy and set of procedures for handling cases of sexual assault; dining workers staged a three-week-long strike while classes were in session; and Harvard suspended the men’s soccer team’s season after revelations of sexually-explicit documents describing members of the women’s team.
The majority of respondents reported supporting the HUDS strike and the University’s decision to suspend the men’s soccer team, while the senior class is more divided on whether students should be allowed to form a union with nearly 40 percent unsure of their stance on the issue. While the majority of respondents report unfavorable views of final clubs, most also maintain an unfavorable opinion of a College policy that will penalize students for their membership in single-gender social organizations.
At the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, after months of intensifying administrative pressure on final clubs, Khurana and Faust jointly announced a new policy aimed to penalize members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations. Starting with the Class of 2021, members of all-male social organizations will no longer be able to hold leadership positions in campus clubs or varsity team captaincies, nor will they be eligible for post-graduate fellowships such as the Fulbright or the Rhodes. Shortly after the announcement, hundreds of women marched in protest in the Yard, while others took to social media to denounce the policy, spurring a year-long back-and-forth among students, administrators, and faculty on the efficacy of and justification for the policy.
More than 60 percent of survey respondents report holding an unfavorable view of final clubs, yet about 56 percent of respondents indicated they viewed the policy penalizing those organizations as unfavorable. About 44 percent of respondents reported being members of some off-campus social organization, including fraternities, sororities, single-gender and co-ed final clubs, and others.
- Twenty-three percent of respondents said they were less likely to donate to Harvard as a result of the policy.
- About 78 percent of respondents who have been members of off campus, single-gender social organizations said they had an unfavorable view of the policy.
- Eighty-six percent of respondents who indicated they thought Harvard should stay out of undergraduate social life had an unfavorable view of the sanctions, whereas 46 percent of students who would prefer Harvard create social opportunities for students also held a favorable view of the sanctions.
Seventy-two percent of respondents who approve of the sanctions also report favorable views of Khurana, whereas fifty-eight percent of respondents who reported having an unfavorable view of the sanctions also reported having an unfavorable view of Khurana.
- Forty-eight percent of those who approve of the sanctions also approve of Faust, whereas 30 percent of seniors who disapprove the sanctions also disapprove of Faust.
Men's Soccer Team
In the fall, The Crimson reported that members of the 2012 men’s soccer team had created a sexually-explicit document assessing female recruits on the basis of their perceived sexual appeal and appearance. In response, the University launched an investigation into the team, and ultimately suspended the remainder of its season.
Seniors overwhelmingly approved of Harvard’s decision to suspend the season, with 74 percent of respondents indicating they agreed.
- Women were more likely than men to approve of the decision (81 percent of women versus 67 percent of men).
- Sixty-one percent of respondents who were varsity athletes for some duration at Harvard agreed with the decision to suspend the men’s season.
Harvard University Dining workers walked off the job en masse this past October to demand increased wages without changes to their health benefits during their contract negotiations with the University. Their three-week long strike shook campus, resulting in the closure of several dining halls and the hiring of temporary workers to fill their vacant positions. Every morning, hundreds of workers marched throughout campus, drawing national attention for their efforts. At the end of October, Harvard and the workers’ union reached an agreement.
The majority (56 percent) of surveyed seniors said they supported the HUDS strike, while 22 percent did not support the strike.
- Just 7 percent of respondents who identified as conservative or very conservative in their political beliefs said they supported the HUDS strike.
- On the other side of the spectrum, 72 percent of seniors who identified as liberal or very liberal supported the HUDS strike.
Students who came from families with combined household incomes of $500,000 or greater were the most likely of all income brackets to disapprove of the strike; 30 percent did not support the strike, while 49 percent approved.
- Women were more likely than men to support the strike, with 65 percent of women approving of the strike, compared to 46 percent of men.
Hundreds of Harvard graduate students in recent years have pushed to form a union in order to negotiate their work and teaching contracts with the University. Administrators staunchly opposed the effort. In the fall, a vote was held to determine whether or not students could form a union, but, with months of uncertainty over the conduct of the election, a National Labor Relations Board official recommended the University hold another election.
- About 42 percent of seniors believe that eligible graduate and undergraduate students should be able to form a union.
- Fifty-six percent of seniors who supported the HUDS strike also indicated they supported student unionization.
Controversial Names and Symbols
Debates over the legacy of slavery through symbols, seals, and names reached an apex at universities across the country last year. At Harvard, those debates culminated in the changing of the title House master to Faculty Dean, and the removal of the Law School’s seal, which was the crest of a formerly slave-owning family.
- Surveyed seniors, like the class before them, generally did not agree with Harvard’s decision to change the name of House master. Twenty-eight percent of the surveyed class approved of the change, while a plurality—45 percent—disagreed.
- Twenty-four percent of surveyed seniors said they believed Harvard should change the names of buildings named after historical figures who were slave owners, while 48 percent of respondents did not believe Harvard should take such actions.
Two years after the student group Divest Harvard staged a week-long blockade of Massachusetts Hall, where Faust’s office is located, the majority of respondents—53 percent—indicated they believe Harvard should remove its investments from fossil fuel companies, while 22 percent disagree.
Over the past four years, the University’s efforts to respond to cases of sexual assault have come under scrutiny. Harvard unveiled a new policy and set of procedures to handle such cases and released a report that revealed what administrators characterized as a “troubling” climate of sexual assault at Harvard. It now faces an ongoing lawsuit alleging the University failed to adequately respond to one woman’s sexual assault case.
About nine percent of the senior class indicated they had been sexually assaulted during their time at Harvard.
- Seventy percent of those who said they were sexually assaulted were women.
- Of those who reported experiencing assault, the majority—83 percent—did not report it to campus officials or police.
- Sixty-seven percent of respondents indicated they know someone else who had been sexually assaulted at Harvard.
More than half of respondents—56 percent—indicated they were either somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with Harvard’s efforts to prevent sexual assault.
- Sixty percent of people who said they had been sexually assaulted while at Harvard indicated they were dissatisfied with Harvard’s efforts at sexual assault prevention.
During their time in Cambridge, the Class of 2017 pressed for the diversification of mental health services and professionals at Harvard, keeping a spotlight on mental health.
- Thirty-eight percent percent of respondents had sought some support from Harvard University Health Services during their time at Harvard.
- Fifteen percent sought help from an off-campus professional.
- Of people who sought help from UHS, 54 percent reported being satisfied with their services.