Harvard Drops Policy Against Single-Sex Clubs After Lawsuit

Harvard University on Monday said it would drop its policy of sanctioning students who joined single-sex clubs.

The Ivy League school released a letter saying it would no longer enforce the ban on same-sex clubs, fraternities or sororities on Monday, with Harvard president Lawrence Bacow noting the university “will not be able to carry forward with the existing policy under the prevailing interpretation of federal law,” because it could be seen as legally discriminatory.

Officials instituted the policy in 2017, which prevented students from holding leadership positions in university-recognized groups and from joining athletic teams if they were a part of single-sex clubs not recognized by Harvard.

They were also not able to receive college-administered fellowships, including the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships, The Washington Post reported.

The policy had affected Harvard’s traditionally male “final clubs” as well as fraternities and sororities that are not sanctioned by the university. Officials had argued these clubs were discriminatory based on sex, with the university’s then-president saying Harvard could no longer “endorse selection criteria [in clubs] that reject much of the student body merely because of gender,” according to the Post.

Executive Director Robert Shibley of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education  has been vocal in its opposition to the policy ever since it was first announced on May 6, 2016, he spoke of the damage caused by Harvard’s Blacklist policy and the recent legal victory.

“Harvard’s effort to crush one of America’s most fundamental freedoms for its students failed in the court of public opinion and was failing in the court of law,” said Shibley. “Harvard squandered time, resources, and most of all its credibility defending its indefensible blacklist policy. While this ‘Crimson Scare’ is finally over, lasting damage has been done to many cherished men’s and women’s groups that either shut down or were muscled into changing their policies against their wishes.”

Bacow insisted the “guiding purpose behind the policy remains as important as ever.”

“The policy was adopted to advance the essential and unfinished work of making Harvard a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all our students—of creating a community in which students are not denied the opportunity to participate in aspects of undergraduate life simply because of their gender,” Bacow wrote.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: (Photo by Omar Rawlings/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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