April 1 2017
Harvard is actively discriminating against male students, said the top executive of a national organization representing fraternities.
Earlier this week, Harvard said that all-female clubs and sororities could keep their “gender focus” in place for another three to five years without risking penalties. But fraternities did not get the same exemption.
That policy is “a blatant form of gender discrimination, which must be vigorously challenged,” said Judson Horras, president and CEO the North American Interfraternity Conference. “We strongly urge Harvard to reconsider their decision,” he added, also siting the Title IX protections against gender-based discrimination.
At Harvard, the saga began when the university’s Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Assault targeted single-gender clubs, saying they increased the risk of sexual assault.
The university has also suggested that single-gender organizations have “discriminatory membership policies,” adding that “the most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men.”
The Ivy League university is the latest to reckon with how fraternities and sororities fit in with students’ increasingly complicated notions of gender, bias and sexual violence.
Last semester, a Tufts sorority lost more than 40 members, including its president, after it hesitated before admitting a transgender student who identifies as female. In January at Northwestern, sororities declined to put out a bid for a student who identifies as male, despite having a female body.
At Yale in February, female students argued it was unlawful for fraternities to accept only men, citing Title IX. The same month, Alpha Chi Omega announcedthe sorority will welcome “all who live and identify as women, regardless of their gender assigned at birth.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.