Harvard will no longer sanction students who join single-sex clubs like Greek organizations after it seemed like the university would lose a sexual discrimination lawsuit against fraternity and sororities, numerous sources reported.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow lifted the ban Monday, which prevented students involved in unregulated exclusively all-male or all-female final clubs or Greek organizations from receiving fellowship or other leadership positions on campus. Harvard administration considered such clubs discriminatory because they could exclude students based on gender, according to Reuters.
The decision to drop the sanctions follows a Supreme Court decision June 15 in the Bostock v. Clayton County case that ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ people.
This decision barring workplace discrimination protects gay and transgender employees and establishes the reasoning that could have been used to decide Harvard was discriminating on the basis of sex if the lawsuit went forward.
Harvard was being sued by multiple fraternities and sororities in 2018, and the lawsuit was moving forward until the Supreme Court ruling, which apparently made it clear to the university that they would not win. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton had decided to deny Harvard’s motion to dismiss the suit in August 2019, according to The Harvard Crimson.
We’re pleased that Harvard University has dropped it’s discriminatory social sanctions against organizations such as single-gender Greek organizations. We stand with the students of Harvard and our sister organizations who have been affected. https://t.co/srY1FeWAXF
— Tri Delta (@TriDelta) June 29, 2020
“In essence, [Gorton] accepted the plaintiffs’ legal theory that the policy, although adopted to counteract discrimination based on sex, is itself an instance of discrimination based on sex,” Bacow wrote. “It now seems clear that Judge Gorton would ultimately grant judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor in the pending lawsuit and that Harvard would be legally barred from further enforcing the policy.”
Harvard announced the sanctions in 2016 and the policy wasn’t enforced until the class of 2021 started school. Intended to obligate all campus clubs to be inclusive, representatives of Greek organizations condemned the policy, according to the Harvard Crimson.
“Harvard’s discriminatory policy has done enough harm already,” Dani Weatherford, CEO of the National Panhellenic Conference, and Judson Horras, CEO of the North American Interfraternity Conference, wrote in their joint Monday statement, according to The Harvard Crimson. “It has decimated Harvard women’s groups and created a culture of fear and distrust. Harvard should stop discriminating against its students on the basis of sex, immediately.”
Harvard leadership at the time of the original decision disagreed.
Fraternities and sororities are “a product of another era, a time when Harvard’s student body was all male, culturally homogeneous, and overwhelmingly white and affluent,” said then-Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust and Harvard Corporation senior fellow William F. Lee in a statement obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation in 2017. “We should not become a Greek school, much less one where these organizations exist outside the College’s supervision.” (RELATED: Harvard To Ban Frat And Sorority Members From Rhodes Scholarships, Leadership Positions)