Harvard University administrators have sanctioned a Christian student club for one year after it allegedly pressured a female student leader to resign in December because she was dating a woman, the Harvard Crimson reported on Thursday.
The club’s leaders, however, said they do not believe they violated any policy.
Although the university did not specify the reason the club was penalized, a college spokesman confirmed in an e-mail Thursday that the Harvard College Faith and Action group has been placed on a one-year “academic probation.”
And he said that if the club re-registers as a student organization next spring it will have to show that it is in compliance with the university’s “nondiscrimination principals.”
According to the Crimson, the punishment is linked to the resignation in the fall of a female bisexual former assistant Bible course leader. Citing interviews with club members as well as e-mails and text messages, the Crimson said the club’s leadership asked the woman to step down after they learned she was dating another woman. That action allegedly violated guidelines in the Harvard College Student Handbook, which says student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the Crimson reported.
Harvard spokesman Aaron Goldman said the undergraduate Office of Student Life was alerted to the situation in December. The office reviewed the group’s actions and found it had conducted itself in a manner “grossly inconsistent” with the office’s policy guide, he wrote in an e-mail.
The Christian club’s leaders, however, said Thursday they were surprised by the punishment.
“To be clear, we are an autonomous student group, and we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Molly Richmond, a copresident of the group, wrote in an e-mail Thursday afternoon. Richmond did not respond to questions about whether the group had asked the woman to step down and why.
Richmond said the club has operated at Harvard for more than 10 years and its policies and practices have remained unchanged.
“The college seems to believe despite our repeated assurances to the contrary that HCFA is not acting autonomously and that our leadership standards were applied unfairly,” she wrote.