Last year, Harvard University took the unprecedented step of banning on- and off-campus single-gender organizations. The ban targeted sororities and fraternities, but also “unrecognized single-gender social organizations” called “Finals Clubs” that served as gathering places for the school’s legacy students.
In early February, after several rounds of appeals, the school finalized the ban — but, because of a campus-wide outcry from feminists, only leaders and members of “male-focused” single-gender clubs will face repercussions from Harvard’s administration.
According to Harvard, the single-gender clubs “propagated exclusionary values” and maintained “forms of privilege” that the school found distasteful and outdated. Those who remain in such clubs, reports Reason Magazine, risk being barred “from leadership positions, athletic teams, and scholarships.”
In December, Harvard finalized the policy, but women at Harvard immediately protested because the single-sex ban was supposed to come down only on those organizations that represented “privilege” — and there’s no way an eternally oppressed, female-only organization at an Ivy League school, made up entirely of the gender-underprivileged, could ever be a place of exclusivity, elitism, and classism.
The Harvard Administration listened, and so while the heads and members of male-only groups will be subject to immediate punishment under the policy, women’s groups will have five years to come up with ways to comply with the new rules. Until then, they can call themselves “female-focused” and be considered to be in line with the policy change.
According to Harvard, of course, the ban may not last those five years — it’s due to come up for review right before the women’s groups will be required to submit a proof of change, and the administration could easily extend their “grace period” indefinitely.
A few prestigious “finals clubs” are also lawyering up, preparing to sue the school under the theory that Harvard is unnecessarily burdening students’ right to free association, and that Harvard cannot punish members of clubs that don’t officially exist on Harvard’s campus.