Harvard discourages single-gender organizations, lawsuit filed

By Ruby Van Dyk || Layout Assistant

Photo Courtesy of Vox

This past week, a lawsuit filed by several national fraternity and sorority organizations against Harvard University. The lawsuit is over a 2016 rule made by the University that discourages Harvard students form joining single-gender clubs and organizations on campus. These lawsuits mark the first legal challenge to the school’s policy. Harvard implemented the sanctions in response to reports of sexual assault at parties of all-male finals clubs. Harvard also accused these finals clubs of having “deeply misogynistic attitudes.”

At Harvard, single-gender organizations are not banned, but students that choose to participate in them are barred from leading other student organizations, becoming captains of sports teams, and being recipients of many prestigious academic awards and fellowships. This naturally has lowered the amount of students who choose to participate. Although the policy was created in regards to all-male finals clubs, it applies to sororities, fraternities and even single-gender choir groups.

A spokeswoman from Harvard issued a statement last Wednesday in response to the lawsuits.
“Harvard College seeks to build a community in which every student can thrive, and it does so on a foundation of shared values, including belonging, inclusion, and non-discrimination. The policy on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (USGSO) is designed to dedicate resources to those organizations that are advancing principles of inclusivity, while offering them supportive pathways as they transform into organizations that align with the educational philosophy, mission, and values of the College.

“In accordance with these values, and for more than a century, Harvard has not had a Greek system on campus. As President Faust and the Harvard Corporation said in December of 2017, it is the expressed expectation of this community that Harvard should not become a Greek school. Harvard should not have to change its commitment to non-discrimination and educational philosophy for outside organizations that are not aligned with our long-standing mission.”

The lawsuits argue that Harvard’s rules unfairly hurt women and women’s organizations on campus as many of them have been force to either disband, or allow men into their organizations. «These students are being punished simply for joining private, off-campus, lawful organizations,» said Laura Doerre, former International President of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. «They are being punished for being women who simply want to have an association with other women.»

The federal suit also claims Harvard’s rule violates Title IX, which forbids discrimination based on sex in schools that receive federal funding. The suit argues that the Harvard rule discriminates students because of their gender and who they decide to associate with. The suits filed hope to go to jury trial and are asking Harvard to revoke it’s policy.

Sophomore Ruby Van Dyk is a Layout Assistant. Her email is rvandyk@fandm.edu.

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