Harvard sororities vow to defy recruitment ban

Three Harvard University sororities have pledged to host a recruitment process open to freshmen next semester in defiance of threatened sanctions from school officials.

In a joint statement released Tuesday morning titled “We Believe Women Should Make Their Own Choices,” the Kappa Alpha Theta, Delta Gamma, and Alpha Phi sororities jointly affirm their choice to hold rush next semester, when new penalties for such activities are scheduled to take effect.

“We believe in a woman’s right to create a supportive, aspirational community. We believe women should make their own choices,” they declare, adding that they intend to “conduct recruitment and open it to freshmen women” next semester.

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

The statement comes in response to a new school policy that imposes punishments on students who join “unrecognized single-gender social organizations (USGSOs),” a category that includes Greek Life.

The policy argues that finals clubs, fraternities, and sororities “run counter to Harvard’s long-standing non-discrimination principles” and that, accordingly, students who join a USGSO will “not be permitted to hold leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams.”

Students who defy the policy will also be ineligible for letters of recommendation for scholarship opportunities, but the sororities insist that their role in the campus community is important enough to justify taking such risks.

“We do understand there are risks inherent in this action, but we provide powerful spaces of support and are determined to work together to demonstrate the value of sorority membership,” they write.

[RELATED: Harvard mandates ‘implicit bias training’ for faculty]

Although the policy was enacted as a result of concerns about discrimination, the sororities argue that it could actually worsen the problem by denying women opportunities to find support among their peers.

Noting that the sanctions have also been “touted as a response to the recommendations of a report on sexual assault prevention,” the document counters that “penalizing our future members for their involvement in a sorority in reality denies them access to member-driven education and support systems shown to be effective in battling sexual assault, as well as alcohol abuse, mental health issues, and the particular challenges inherent in college life.

“Further, while Harvard’s sanctions claim to support women’s right to make their own decisions, these sanctions actually force women to choose between the opportunity to have supportive, empowering women-only spaces and external leadership opportunities,” the sororities elaborate.

Spokespersons for Harvard have not replied to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen