Harvard adds sanctions on single-gender clubs to handbook
Commencement at Harvard University.
Harvard University has now fully implemented a controversial policy imposing sanctions on members of “unrecognized single-gender organizations" (USGOs).
According to The Harvard Crimson, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted last week to include the new policy in the student handbook, representing the final step in a process that has lasted nearly two years.
The policy, which was initially proposed in May 2016, excludes members of single-gender fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs” from earning scholarships, holding leadership positions in recognized organizations or athletic teams, or receiving institutional endorsements for certain fellowships.
The proposal met with stiff resistance throughout the process, with many opponents arguing that the sanctions violate students’ right to freedom of association.
Others, such as former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis, expressed skepticism that the policy could even be enforced, noting the difficulty of determining whether a student is a member of an organization with no ties to the school.
Administrators, moreover, have already ruled out several possible enforcement mechanisms, saying they will not actively seek out students who might be in violation of the new policy, nor rely on “anonymous complaints.”
Notably, the final version of the policy omits a proposed “bridge” program that would have given female-only groups between three and five years to comply with the new rules.
In December, three Harvard sororities vowed to continue holding recruitment events in defiance of the ban, arguing that sororities provide “supportive, empowering women-only spaces and external leadership opportunities.”
The following month, however, a different sorority announced its capitulation to the university, severing ties with its parent organization in order to re-brand itself as a “gender-neutral” club.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) speculates that Harvard’s decision to eliminate the “bridge” program from the final policy may have been prompted by concerns that it would violate the Title IX statute forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex.
Although Harvard is a private institution, FIRE contends that Title IX would apply because the school receives federal funds for research and financial aid programs.
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