Harvard moves to dismiss legal challenges to punishing single-gender social groups

Neetu Chandak, DCNF

HearHerHarvard protesters outside Massachusetts Hall before a rally and march around Harvard Yard. More than 200 female Harvard University students pushed back against a new policy to discourage participation in single-gender clubs at the Ivy League school, a move that will affect sororities and other womens groups, during a raucous rally on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass. on May 9, 2016. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Harvard University announced Friday that it would move to dismiss complaints about a rule that punishes students in single-gender clubs from holding leadership positions on sports teams and campus groups.

The single-gender policy, announced May 6, 2016, would give a certain set of extracurricular opportunities “to students whose decisions reflect the University’s aspirations for inclusivity,” Harvard said in its dismissal filings, obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation over email. The rule went into effect for students entering the school in the Fall 2017 semester.

Delta Gamma Fraternity Management Corporation, Alpha Phi, and Cambridge’s Alpha Phi chapter sued Harvard at the state level while Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Sigma Chi fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter in Cambridge and three Harvard male students were plaintiffs in the federal suit. The lawsuits were filed on Dec. 3, 2018, according to a press statement from the North American Interfraternity Conference (NAIC).

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

The state level lawsuit focused on “right to free association and equal treatment based on sex” and the federal suit questioned the policy’s commitment to “freedom from sex discrimination,” The Boston Globe reported.

Harvard said in its federal filing on Friday that the rule did not discriminate against male or female students, that students were not punished by the policy and the rule was not breaking any laws.

“Any student who preferred a campus with a different organizational structure, in which single-gender social organizations are more fully integrated into the campus life, has always had complete freedom to select a college or university offering those opportunities,” Harvard said in the federal filing.

The state memo, which has yet to be filed, said the policy does not hinder students’ freedom of association and the plaintiffs failed to give an instance of threat, intimidation, or coercion due to the ruling.

Harvard College spokesperson Rachael Dane said in a press statement obtained by TheDCNF that Harvard has not had a Greek life system for more than 100 years.

“Harvard should not have to change its commitment to non-discrimination and educational philosophy for outside organizations that are not aligned with our long-standing mission,” Dane said.

The sanctions against students in single-gender organizations prevents them from receiving endorsements for the Rhodes Scholarship, which is one of the “oldest and most celebrated international fellowship awards in the world.”

Harvard’s Kappa Kappa Gamma and Kappa Alpha Theta chapters went gender-neutral while Delta Gamma shut down as a result of the single-gender policy.

HERE’S WHAT YOU’RE MISSING …

Delta Gamma Fraternity Management Corporation, Alpha Phi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Sigma Chi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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