Lawsuit: Harvard dean blackmailed fraternities

Andrew Lawrence
Campus Correspondent

  • Harvard University has imposed sanctions prohibiting students who are members of single-sex campus organizations from obtaining leadership positions and faculty endorsements for prestigious scholarships.
  • Several Greek organizations and members are suing the school, claiming that the Harvard College Dean threatened single-sex groups to go co-ed.
  • A lawsuit filed Monday claims that the Harvard College dean  attempted to blackmail fraternities into going co-ed. 

    Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana held what was promoted as a run-of-the-mill meeting to ensure the groups were aware of the latest school policies on alcohol and sexual assault, but the meeting quickly took another direction, according to the lawsuit reported by the Harvard Crimson.

    “Khurana said that the papers in his hand were very embarrassing to the clubs and that he could not guarantee that they would not be leaked."   

    The suit alleges that, at the meeting, Khurana waved a sheet of paper in the air that he said contained accounts of sexual assault: “Khurana said that the papers in his hand were very embarrassing to the clubs and that he could not guarantee that they would not be leaked. But, Khurana said, if some clubs became co-ed — systematically and soon — that would help the situation. It was an unmistakable threat.”

    The federal lawsuit was filed by the national organizations for Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sigma Chi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, as well as Harvard’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

    Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three Harvard students and fraternity members, according to the Harvard Crimson. The students received permission from the U.S. District Court in Boston to proceed under pseudonyms to avoid threats and harassment from the public and retaliation from Harvard. 

    [RELATED: Harvard sorority closes in response to co-ed sanctions]

    “Through a new student-conduct policy that punishes undergraduates who join single-sex social organizations, Harvard succeeded, perversely, in eliminating nearly every women’s social organization previously available to female students at Harvard,” the suit says. “[W]omen and their former all-female social clubs have suffered the most. More women than men belonged to single-sex social organizations. More women than men lost access to places they once called their own.”

    The lawsuit goes on to attribute Harvard’s campaign against single-sex clubs to the installation of Khurana as dean of the college in 2014. The filing further claims that the college’s enforcement of its sanctions are arbitrary, in that it targets otherwise unobjectionable groups simply because they limit membership to one sex:

    “A Harvard undergraduate could join the American Nazi party, or could create an off-campus undergraduate chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, without running afoul of the sanctions policy, or any other Harvard student-conduct policy. Those groups may be heinous but they are co-ed, so under Harvard’s rules, its students may belong without any threat of sanction," the lawsuit states. 

    Harvard has garnered a great deal of media attention in previous weeks, mainly due to its strong push to eliminate single-sex student organizations, as well as a lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian American applicants in the admission process. Originally, the issue of sexual assault served as the college’s rationale for punishing students who joined single-sex clubs. 

    [RELATED: DOJ not buying Harvard’s defense in affirmative action case]

    Harvard’s rationale later shifted, following the release of Final Report of the Implementation Committee for the Policy on Membership in Single Gender Social Organizations, which cited an intent to end “elitism and discrimination” on the “diverse and socially conscious” campus.

    Under the current policy, which will be implemented starting with the Class of 2021, students who join a single-gender club will not be allowed to seek leadership positions at the school, captain a varsity athletic team, or receive a college endorsement for a prestigious graduate fellowship or scholarships.

    Harvard did not return a request for comment in time for publication.

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    Andrew Lawrence

    Andrew Logan Lawrence

    Campus Correspondent

    Andrew Lawrence is a Georgia Campus Correspondent, and reports on liberal bias and abuse for Campus Reform. He studies Political & Social Sciences at University of Georgia, and is currently working on the Brian Kemp for Governor campaign.

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