Members Of Single-Gender Clubs At Harvard Barred From Student Leadership, Can’t Receive Rhodes Scholarships

Tara West - Author

Nov. 3 2016, Updated 5:53 p.m. ET

Harvard says that beginning with the class of 2021, members of all single-gender clubs such as fraternities, sororities, and final clubs will be barred from student leadership positions, captain positions on sports teams, and from being awarded prestigious honors such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. The ruling comes as Harvard officials claim that the same-gender clubs contribute to sexual assault on campus.

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The Harvard Crimson reports that University President Drew G. Faust announced those changes to the policy regarding members of unrecognized single-gender organizations on campus. Harvard does not recognize sororities, fraternities, or the exclusive (and often secretive) final clubs on campus. These groups are operated independently from Harvard with final clubs remaining mostly male, a throwback of the university’s “Old Boys” network that has remained a staple of the Harvard campus, only allowing upperclassmen to join after proving themselves worthy of the club. To counter the dominance of male-only final clubs, some female-only final clubs have been created. However, Harvard says that any single-gender club, whether male or female, is “at odds” with Harvard’s philosophy and commitment to diversity.

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As a result, the university has determined that the members of unrecognized same-gender groups on campus will not be allowed to act in any leadership capacity on campus. Harvard will bar members from student leadership, becoming captains in sports, and even fellowships such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. The Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana is backing their decision by noting that the same-gender organizations are going against Harvard values which must be upheld in these student leadership positions.

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“Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under its name. Especially as it seeks to break down structural barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

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The new sanctions will not affect current Harvard students or incoming freshmen; instead it will go into effect with the class of 2021. This isn’t the first attack that same-gender organizations have experienced from Harvard officials in recent years. In fact, last fall the university placed so much pressure on all-male final clubs to become co-ed that the final clubs Spee and Fox extended invitations to their first female members.

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To combat the all-male and all-female social clubs, Harvard is attempting to present more social offerings to students via open social events. The events are organized with discretionary funds which are also being spent to revamp “House life.” Interestingly, though Harvard is claiming that single-gender “unrecognized” organizations are harmful to the university’s value system, some of the discretionary funds went to women’s groups on campus. These women’s groups are recognized by the campus despite their focus on a single gender. Here is a list of “approved” women’s groups on the Harvard campus; there are 29 to be exact. In contrast, men-focused groups are harder to count as they do not have a dedicated Harvard page. In my search I found three: Black Men’s Forum, South Asian Men’s Collective, and Latino Men’s Collective. It is not clear if more men’s groups exist on campus that are “approved”.

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However, the final clubs at Harvard are not simply sitting back and taking the news. The Porcellian final club, the oldest final club on the Harvard campus who touts themselves as the “most final of them all,” is taking a stand against the ruling noting that they have numerous questions about the sexual assault statistics obtained by the Harvard review board. The Porcellian final club was reportedly established in 1794 and is compared to Yale’s “Skull and Bones” society.

Following the leadership ban beginning with the class of 2021, the university says they will continue to evaluate if additional steps need to be taken such as barring the organizations completely from campus.

What do you think about Harvard barring members of unsanctioned Greek organizations and final clubs from participating in student leadership groups?

[Image via Shutterstock]


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