Harvard University announced new policies Friday intended to punish any student who joins a single-sex social club.
Harvard President Drew Faust announced the decision in an email to students. Under the new policy, any student who joins a single-sex fraternity, sorority, or final club will be banned from captaining a sports team, leading a recognized student group, or being endorsed for fellowships like the Rhodes Scholarship. The policy is intended to strongly discourage joining such organizations, while also pressuring them to become co-ed as a means of escaping school sanction.
“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life,” said Faust. “The College cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students.”
Faust denounced the clubs for entrenching “privilege and exclusion” at Harvard, which she said went against the school’s “core values” although it has an acceptance rate of less than 10 percent and costs more than $63,000 a year to attend.
Current undergraduates as well as the incoming class of 2020 will be exempt from the new rules, but they will take effect from the class of 2021 onwards.
The announcement comes several months after a special report blamed the culture of final clubs for causing sexual assaults at the school, although the vast majority of sexual assaults at Harvard do not occur at final clubs.
A committee of students, faculty, and administrators will be responsible for finding a way to enforce the new rules, which could prove difficult. Many of the affected organizations do not publish a member list, and it’s possible some that currently do will react by going underground.
Harvard isn’t the first school to target single-sex clubs and Greek organizations. Previously, schools such as Wesleyan University have outright banned students from joining single-sex fraternities.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a campus civil liberties group, slammed Harvard for limiting the freedom of association of students.
“[This] not only punishes students in the off-campus organizations, but it also limits the ability of recognized groups to choose the leaders they like best,” Samantha Harris, FIRE’s director of policy research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Several commenters at The Harvard Crimson pointed out ironic aspects of the new rules.
“So to be clear, if you join a single-gender organization, the college will ban you from being a captain of a single-gender organization?” One person said, referring to the ban on captaining single-sex sports teams.
“I actually think this hurts a lot of the lower income students that are in fraternities and sororities at Harvard,” said another. “Greek life provides access to great networks that less privileged students might not otherwise have access to and this discourages participation of these students more than students from privileged backgrounds.”
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