Harvard University placed a Christian student group on probation allegedly because the group pressured a female leader to resign after she began dating another female, the Harvard Crimson reported.
The Office of Student Life placed Harvard College Faith and Action on “administrative probation” for a year, the paper said.
While college spokesperson Aaron M. Goldman called the group's actions "grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide," his announcement last week didn't specify what the school's largest Christian fellowship did to violate policy.
What did the Christian group's leaders say was behind their probation?
The co-presidents of Harvard College Faith and Action — seniors Scott Ely and Molly L. Richmond — disclosed a bit more to the Crimson.
“Earlier today, we met with an administrator who informed us that the College would place HCFA on probation, citing our relationship with Christian Union as well as our standards for leaders,” Richmond and Ely wrote to the paper last Wednesday.
Christian Union is a national group with chapters at all eight Ivy League schools as well as Stanford, the Crimson reported, adding that Christian Union helps fund and support Harvard College Faith and Action.
More from the Crimson:
The decision to suspend HCFA, though, is almost certainly tied to the Sept. 2017 resignation of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader. HCFA leadership asked the woman to step down from her position after they learned she was dating another female student—violating guidelines laid out in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation.”
This account of events is based on interviews with 12 current and former members of HCFA as well as documents, emails, and text messages obtained and reviewed by The Crimson. The former assistant Bible course leader, as well as several other members of HCFA, spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
The paper said Goldman wrote in his statement that the Office of Student Life “was alerted to a situation in December” regarding the Faith and Action group and has been “reviewing” the organization since then. If the group re-registers as a recognized student organization next spring, Goldman wrote that the Office of Student Life “will require updated materials demonstrating that they are in compliance with the University’s nondiscrimination” policies, the Crimson reported.
What do the group's leaders have to say about discrimination charges?
Ely and Richmond told the paper that HCFA never violated Harvard’s non-discrimination guidelines.
“We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship,” the co-presidents wrote told the Crimson. “Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”
Ely and Richmond added to the paper that they believe HCFA’s standards on topics related to issues like extramarital “sexual activity” are applied equally to student “leaders of all sexual orientations.”
What else is the school requiring of the Christian student group?
Harvard College Faith in Action must cut ties with Christian Union by the end of its probationary period before the school will recognize HCFA as a student organization again, college spokesperson Rachael Dane told the Crimson in a separate story.
Ely and Richmond told the paper Sunday that they don't have a response to the school's mandate regarding HCFA's ties to Christian Union since Harvard hasn't clarified the terms of its probation.
Goldman also told the Crimson that if Harvard College Faith and Action wants to be back in the school's good graces, it must prove compliance with the Harvard’s “local governance” policies.
The Harvard College Student Handbook says all recognized student groups must maintain “local autonomy,” the paper reported, adding it means they have to make “all policy decisions” without obligation to any parent group.
What similar situation happened at another college?
- Business Leaders in Christ at the University of Iowa refused to give a leadership position to an openly gay student who refused to sign the group’s Statement of Faith.
- So the school shut down BLC, saying membership and participation in campus organizations can't be limited based on sexual orientation and that the group would have to alter its Statement of Faith.
- But group members sued the college — and a judge ruled against the school’s “selective enforcement” of its nondiscrimination policy, leading to the reinstatement of Business Leaders in Christ.