In Other Ivory Towers

Harvard President Drew Faust announced last Friday that the university will penalize single-sex social organizations, including Greek organizations and final clubs.

Members of those organizations, beginning with the class of 2021, will be ineligible for leadership positions in official student organizations, team captaincies and endorsements for fellowships including the Rhodes and Marshall.

Final clubs are unofficial organizations that invite specific sophomores to apply for membership and only admit some of them. Most are controlled by club graduates, since they became independent from Harvard in 1984 to avoid becoming co-ed. There are six all-male clubs, five all-female clubs and two that are at least partially co-ed.

The policy, which the Crimson first reported as a possibility on April 14 after a meeting between final club leaders and Harvard administrators, emerged after the Hyman Report on sexual assault last semester called for Harvard to reform the final clubs. The report found that 47 percent of female senior respondents who had participated in final clubs as guests or members experienced nonconsensual sexual contact, compared to 31 percent of female senior respondents overall. It criticized the historically-male clubs, which dominate social life, as being non-inclusive and recommended expanding membership to all genders. The report also found that 40 percent of female senior respondents involved Greek organizations reported nonconsensual sexual contact. A professional statistical analysis commissioned by one of the clubs found concerns with the report.

Much of the rhetoric from Harvard administrators has focused on the exclusive and discriminatory nature of final clubs, which Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana say are not in keeping with Harvard’s mission.

Two clubs already became co-ed in the fall in response to pressure from the administration, although in one women only enjoy limited membership. Other clubs have criticized the administration for pressuring clubs to reform. Criticisms include questions of legality, with some clubs and fraternities stating that they will challenge Harvard’s decision in court. Some club leaders have used the concerns about the Hyman Report to claim that the administration is making clubs and Greek organizations into scapegoats for sexual assault. Male and female club leaders have both expressed that the policy will disproportionately affect female clubs and sororities, because they lack the property and financial resources of male clubs and might cease to exist as a result. Students have expressed the concern that removing spaces for women will make the campus less safe for women in terms of sexual assault prevention. In addition to club and Greek organization members expressing their dissatisfaction on social media and in the Crimson, over 200 women rallied on Monday in defense of all-female organizations. The same day, officials from several umbrella groups for national Greek organizations issued a joint statement criticizing Harvard’s policy for denying the right of assembly and penalizing of all-female groups and minority Greek organizations.

Harvard is the latest of several elite universities to take action against single-sex organizations. Amherst, in 2014, barred undergraduates from joining single-sex organizations. Williams banned fraternities in 1962.

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