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Harvard sued over discriminatory policy on single-sex clubs

Harvard lawsuit claims university ‘spreads negative stereotypes’ about students joining single-sex groups

Harvard Univerity is being sued over claims that a crackdown on single-sex social clubs is sexual discrimination.

Harvard adopted a policy in 2016 that says that students who join single-sex clubs will not receive endorsements or recommendations letters from deans on campus concerning post-graduate fellowships.

Two sororities and two fraternities filed the lawsuit on Monday to challenge Harvard’s 2016 policy. The lawsuits argue that the school’s policy discriminates against students based on their sex and also spreads negative stereotypes about students who join all-male or all-female organizations.

Many news organizations tried to get a comment from the administration about the lawsuit, but they did not reply.

Although single-gender clubs are not banned at Harvard overall, students who join them are prohibited from leading campus groups or becoming captains of sports teams. Harvard also does not endorse students who are members of single-gender clubs for prestigious fellowships such as the Rhodes Scholarship.

Harvard officials approved the rule to control secretive all-male groups known as “final clubs,” those members include some former U.S. presidents but have come under scrutiny in recent years. A 2016 report by the school accused the clubs of having “deeply misogynistic attitudes” and tied them to problems with sexual assaults, according to the New York Post. 

The rule also applies to all male and female fraternities and sororities along with choir groups. The choir groups have become co-ed at Harvard since the recent adoption of the 2016 rule. The lawsuits contend that the rule has primarily harmed women’s groups, many of which have disbanded or started accepting men to avoid further sanctions.

The lawsuit against Harvard stated that the 2016 policy violates the 1972 law known as Title-9. That law prohibits discrimination based on sex in schools that receive federal dollars.

Does Harvard have a history of discriminatory policies?

Back in June, Harvard went under scrutiny for its policies against Asain Americans applicants. Anti-affirmative action student organizations have said that Harvard consistently ranked Asian-American applicants lowest on personal traits such as likeability.

Asian Americans make up about 22 percent of Harvard’s applicants, according to their website. However, average acceptance rate overall at Harvard during the time period covered by the dataset between 2000-2017 was at 9.3 percent. Asian-Americans were the only racial group whose acceptance rate dips below that average.

Harvard denied the claim that they were limiting Asain-American applicants. Harvard told the New York Times back in June that Asian-American applicants make up 29 percent of the entering students. Currently, a federal lawsuit by the anti-affirmative action group, Students for Fair Admissions, is in federal court to challenge the current policy and the history of Harvard’s restrictive policies dating back to the 1990s.






Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.

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