Harvard sorority goes ‘gender-neutral’ to avoid sanctions

Toni Airaksinen
New York Campus Correspondent

  • The Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at Harvard University has cuts ties with its parent organization and re-branded itself as a "gender-neutral" club in order to comply with a new policy forbidding "unrecognized single-gender social organizations."
  • Three other sororities on campus previously vowed to defy the new policy, saying the benefits they provide to female students are worth the risk of sanctions.
  • One of Harvard University’s oldest sororities has been dismantled by its own members following threats of sanctions from university officials.

    Kappa Kappa Gamma (Kappa) President Tiana Menon announced the decision in a recent public statement provided to The Harvard Crimson, explaining that the sorority was forced to disaffiliate from its national chapter in the wake of Harvard University’s new policy banning single gender organizations.

    "We...firmly believe that gender neutral organizations committed to empowering female-identifying persons hold a place on Harvard’s campus."   

    [RELATED: Harvard formally adopts sanctions on single-gender clubs]

    Students who defy the policy and join a single-gender club will be ineligible for campus leadership positions, will not allowed to be captains of athletic teams, and will be ineligible for school endorsement for prestigious academic fellowships, the policy states.

    At least three Harvard sororities have refused to comply with the policy so far, making Kappa the first sorority to publicly capitulate. Newly-unaffiliated members can now join Fleur-de-Lis, a “gender-neutral” yet “female focused” group created to replace Kappa.

    “We are excited for the new opportunity to contribute to a healthy campus social life at Harvard, and firmly believe that gender neutral organizations committed to empowering female-identifying persons hold a place on Harvard’s campus,” wrote Menon.

    Menon directly implicated the new policy as the reason for Kappa’s transformation, noting that those who join Fleur-de-Lis will “remain in good faith with College’s non-discrimination and social group policies.”

    [RELATED: Harvard sororities vow to defy recruitment ban]

    Prior to the launch of Fleur-de-Lis, the Crimson published an editorial in December praising the new policy, saying that imposing sanctions on members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will help to combat what the editors described as the outsized power and influence of all-male student groups on campus, which were referred to as “white, male, and affluent.”

    Yet the editorial board warned that sanctioning fraternity members isn’t enough, expressing hope that “sanctions will further stimulate campus dialogue on issues of inclusivity and that the administration will continue to be aware of exclusion on campus and support further measures in support of marginalized students.”

    [RELATED: LGBT group joins opposition to Harvard single-gender club ban]

    Kappa joins other student groups that have gone co-ed since the new policy was adopted, including formerly all-male fraternities Kappa Sigma and Alpha Epsilon Phi, as well as a handful of “final clubs.”

    Founded in 2003, Harvard’s Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter has historically dedicated itself to being a “women’s organization thriving on tradition, leadership, academics, and friendship,” according to its still-active website.

    University officials have not yet announced how they will enforce the sanctions on students, but plan to do so later this month or in February. Campus Reform reached out to the school for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen





    Toni Airaksinen

    Toni Airaksinen

    New York Campus Correspondent
    Toni Airaksinen is a New York Campus Correspondent, where she reports on free speech issues and social justice research. She is a senior at Barnard College, majoring in Urban Studies and Environmental Science. She is also a columnist for PJ Media, and formerly held a post with USA TODAY College, The Columbia Spectator, and Quillette.
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