A Harvard faculty committee has recommended that the college forbid students from joining “fraternities, sororities and similar organizations” in a move to phase out all organizations, including co-ed groups, by May 2022, The Harvard Crimsonreports.
“All currently enrolled students, including those who will matriculate this fall, will be exempt from the new policy for the entirety of their time at Harvard,” a committee report on the potential rule read. “This will lead to a transition period, whereby [unrecognized single-gender social organizations] would be phased out by May 2022.”
The policy would first apply to the freshmen of the Fall 2018 semester. Stating that it’s “unlikely” that the school can improve fraternities and sororities’ own policies, the report follows Harvard’s attempts to weaken the campus presence of single-gender social groups. “This report…articulates an aspiration to improve the educational experiences and social lives of all Harvard students while they are on campus,” the committee wrote in defense of their work.
The last major update in the administration’s efforts was in May 2016, when the school announced it will bar those in the Class of 2021 and onwards from joining single-sex organizations. That version of the policy also prevented members of these societies from earning certain campus leadership positions.
Widespread criticism of those rules led to the current committee’s formation with the goal of finding a less strict strategy. “Our main reservation about the stated goal of the policy was whether the focus on ending gender segregation and discrimination is too narrow,” the group’s statement said. “If all of these organizations adopted gender-neutral membership in a timely fashion, there would remain a myriad of practices of these organizations that go against the educational mission and principles espoused by Harvard University.”
These revised policies would still recognize independent student organizations as long as they “follow best practices and demonstrate their robust compliance with the College’s shared values.”
Although the newly proposed revisions haven’t been finalized yet, the committee even suggested proper phrasing to capture the recommendation’s reasoning, sharing, “Harvard students may neither join nor participate in final clubs, fraternities or sororities, or other similar private, exclusionary social organizations that are exclusively or predominately made up of Harvard students, whether they have local or national affiliation, during their time in the College.”
Faculty will comment on the committee’s recommendations before the proposal is eventually shared with University President Drew G. Faust. For now, the original barring policy will begin with this year’s incoming freshmen, but these discussions on balancing gender equality on Harvard’s campus are sure to be noticeable in the next few months.