Harvard University announced this week it will formally adopt a policy that forbids members of single-gender student organizations from serving in leadership positions or applying for fellowships.
As of Tuesday, student members of unrecognized single-gender student organizations at Harvard University will be ineligible for leadership roles in other student organizations on campus. These students will also be ineligible for prestigious academic fellowships.
This week, the Harvard administration announced in a statement that an interim policy placing restrictions on members of single-sex student groups would be made permanent. “Under the policy, students may decide to join a USGSO and remain in good standing,” the statement from the administration read. It warned that “decisions often have consequences, as they do here in terms of the students’ eligibility for decanal endorsements and leadership positions supported by institutional resources.”
“The USGSOs have a very different relationship to the campus than was the case a generation ago, and it cannot be seriously disputed that the overall impact is negative,” the statement continued, arguing that such organizations “stand in the way of our ability to provide a fully challenging and inclusive educational experience to the diverse students currently on our campus.”
Harvard acknowledged in the statement that they are facing an investigation from the Department of Justice over their allegedly discriminatory affirmative action practices.
“Diversity is central to our obligations to society and to our students. It is central to the very organization of the College, which emphasizes a residential undergraduate experience where students are randomly assigned to Houses as a means of maximizing each student’s exposure to people unlike themselves,” the statement added. “Indeed, we are in the midst of a lawsuit, as well as an investigation by the United States government, in which we are vigorously defending these bedrock commitments.”
The president of the Harvard Republican Club condemned the new policy in a comment to Campus Reform. “I think it’s unfortunate that the Harvard administration has framed the sanctions issue as a referendum on the moral character of the students who choose to join single gender social groups,” she argued. “Social clubs are a product of a lack of satisfactory spaces at Harvard and students who have found support and belonging within single-gender social groups should not be punished for their affiliation.”
The Harvard Crimson reported in 2016 that an overwhelming 53 percent of Harvard students were against the new policy. A new poll recorded in November reported that 61 percent of Harvard students are against the policy.