The policy, announced two and a half years ago by College dean Rakesh Khurana and adopted by the Corporation in late 2017, prohibits undergraduates who belong to unrecognized single-gender social organizations (USGSOs) from leadership posts in student organizations or athletic teams, and from receiving College endorsement for fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.
They are now being sued, on top of their issues about excluding Asians from admission because there are too many smart ones, for, inter alia, violation of Title IX.
Two separate lawsuits filed by the groups, in federal and in Massachusetts court, allege that the College’s policy constitutes sex-based discrimination. In the federal suit, the plaintiffs—the international parent organizations of two sororities, Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Kappa Gamma, the parent organizations of two fraternities, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi, Harvard’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and three Harvard students—allege that the sanctions policy violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act as well as the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs in the Massachusetts suit—the international parent organization of the sorority Alpha Phi, Harvard’s chapter of Alpha Phi, and a management corporation for the sorority Delta Gamma—argue that the USGSO policy violates the rights to free association and equal treatment based on sex guaranteed by the Massachusetts constitution and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
The change was implemented to end the single-sex exclusivity of Final Clubs and fraternities, and sororities had to go because there was no way they could eradicate the toxic masculinity and rape culture of fraternities without doing the same to women.
“The common thread that ties together all of Harvard’s ever-shifting justifications for the Sanctions Policy is sexism,” the federal complaint alleges. “Harvard’s views that all-male organizations cause sexual assault because they are all-male, and that there is no value to all-female or all-male organizations, are sexist in the extreme.”
As the “living” Title IX has been in near-constant motion over the past few years, in service of the ideology of eliminating all remaining vestiges of gendered society, and the patriarchy that colonized Lena Dunham shouldn’t be allowed to colonize Harvard Yard, associations of same-gendered students became the enemy to be wiped out, even though they were expressly protected under Title IX.
Title IX has recognized the importance of single-sex organizations in college life, the complaint points out: “In 1974, two years after enacting Title IX, Congress amended the statute specifically to exempt single-sex social organizations from its reach. Congress singled out sororities and fraternities for special protection because Congress recognized the key role these single-sex groups can play in student development, especially the way they can help women.”
But Harvard wasn’t buying, seeing these long-standing institutions as blocking progress, not to mention fostering guys who sexually assault women.
“Harvard College seeks to build a community in which every student can thrive, and it does so on a foundation of shared values, including belonging, inclusion, and non-discrimination,” College spokeswoman Rachael Dane wrote in a statement responding to this magazine’s query about the lawsuit. The USGSO policy “is designed to dedicate resources to those [USGSO] organizations that are advancing principles of inclusivity, while offering them supportive pathways as they transform into organizations that align with the educational philosophy, mission, and values of the College.”
Putting aside the irony of some of the most exclusive real estate on earth extolling the virtues of inclusivity, has this iron-fisted effort to force single-sex associations to go co-ed, or as Harvard describes it, “supportive pathways,” by depriving students of educational opportunity based upon their membership, and their membership is based upon their sex, violated Title IX and a couple constitutions?
Had it just applied to fraternities and all-male Final Clubs, chances are fairly good that there wouldn’t be much of a backlash at Harvard. But no matter how many lofty words were murdered for the cause, there was simply no way to avoid the obvious: sororities had to go too.
Many believed that women’s groups were “collateral damage” in a policy that really aimed to crack down on male final clubs (a claim that is repeated in the court complaints).
Is there any legitimacy to the argument that an association of women who prefer the live, study, play in the company of friends of the same sex, is a bad thing? Is it wrong for women to want a place where they feel safe, relaxed and comfortable, among friends with whom they can share camaraderie? If this isn’t wrong, and it isn’t, then there can be nothing wrong when the same position is held by males, right?
Not if the truth be told. The real concern is that these elitist all-male enclaves are where relationships are formed that follow into the upper-echelons of business and government, to the exclusion of women and minorities. The real concern is that fraternities are “rape factories” in disguise, where drunken men sexually assault even more drunken women who mysteriously appear at their door for parties. Sororities? They’re just along for the ride.
But are these Harvard students, who comprise the diners at Final Clubs and brothers at fraternities, not of the same nerd ilk, super-smart and, presumably, similarly woke as the rest of the Harvard community? Why then can they not be trusted to enjoy their associations without being the enemy? Why must they be the targets of sanctions for enjoying the company of friends of the same sex?
Having sued Harvard, the efficacy of Title IX to prevent sex discrimination will be tested from the other side. Is it not discriminatory to punish students for preferring the company of their own gender? The suit will provide the answer, no matter how many lofty excuses Harvard proffers, and if they prevail, the nerds will have their revenge, regardless of their gender.