Harvard faculty decline to reconsider frat ban

Harvard University’s College of Arts and Sciences faculty has rejected a motion to allow students, particularly those in Greek organizations, the right to free association.

The elite university first drew national media attention nearly two years ago when it proposed to introduce sanctions for students who participate in single-gender clubs, such as all-male final clubs, fraternities, and sororities.

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The idea was spawned after Dean Rakesh Khurana submitted a university-wide report to President Drew Faust in May 2016, claiming that such clubs are “preserves of men” that promote “exclusionary values.”

“The discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances,” Khurana wrote in introducing his report, suggesting that single-gender clubs “undermine” the values of the university.

While Khurana’s report initially suggested preventing members of such clubs from holding leadership positions on campus or qualifying for some of the school’s most coveted scholarships, it was later suggested in a separate report from the Committee on the Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations that members should face suspension, or even expulsion.

In response, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Harry Lewis proposed a motion to revoke any such penalties, removing power from the school to “discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students” for joining “any lawful organizations.”

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The motion came to a vote during a departmental faculty meeting Tuesday, but was decidedly rejected in a vote of 130-90, according to The Harvard Crimson.

“I’m disappointed, but life will go on,” Lewis remarked of the outcome, predicting in a blog post co-written by female undergrads prior to the vote that “final clubs can evade the sanctions and function much as they always have,” either by becoming alumni organizations or going underground.

Moreover, the post points out that the university’s decision threatens “the support groups of hundreds of women in the name of ridding the university of elite men’s clubs,” since “all proposed plans thus far would force sororities to shut down.”

Indeed, the post claims that “the most vocal and impassioned opposition to the sanctions has come from women, not the men’s final clubs.”

[RELATED: Founder calls Harvard free speech club an ‘urgent necessity’]

The fate of the policy now rests in the hands of Faust, who has already decided to resign at the end of the current academic year, but has promised to make a final decision before her departure.

Faust can either maintain the current penalties that prevent members of single-gender clubs from holding leadership roles, ban membership in unrecognized groups entirely, or consider “some other possible solutions” that are as-yet unspecified.

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