Harvard University: Blacklisting of Final Club, Fraternity, and Sorority Students

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Harvard University

On May 6, 2016, Harvard University announced that members of independent, single-sex, off-campus organizations would be blacklisted from Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and banned from leadership of on-campus organizations or athletic teams. Starting in 2017, members of fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs” would begin to be denied these opportunities in an effort to foster “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes.” The organizations affected have been independent from Harvard since 1984, operate as off-campus entities, and do not receive any recognition or benefit from the university. FIRE strongly opposes Harvard University President Faust’s illiberal decision to sanction students involved in these organizations. TAKE ACTION: JOIN FIRE IN DEMANDING HARVARD RESTORE STUDENTS’ FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION RIGHTS.

  • Harvard Allows Women, Not Men, To Evade Single-Sex Club Ban

    August 16, 2016

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller Harvard University has assured a women-only off-campus club it will be allowed to ignore a ban on single-sex club membership, as long as it makes a cosmetic change to its bylaws. It has not extended the privilege to all-male clubs… Read more here.

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  • Are Final Clubs Too Exclusive for Harvard?

    August 2, 2016

    By Sarah Maslin Nir at New York Times One midnight near semester’s end on the skirts of Harvard Yard, music thumped and laughs rang out from a colonnaded, Greek-revival mansion, the sort usually seen in Hollywood fantasies about fraternal campus life. But it was the scene outside that suggested something other than a frat party. This was the headquarters of the Fly, an exclusive men’s fellowship known here as a final club. At its side door stood a silver-haired man in tuxedo, checking names against a list of the lucky invited. Eager young women in micro-minis queued up… Read more here.

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  • Harvard’s Exclusive Men-Only Final Clubs are Drawing Intense Criticism

    August 2, 2016

    By Abby Jackson at Business Insider At Harvard University, the issue of exclusive, mostly men-only final clubs has roiled emotions on campus over the past year… Read more here.

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  • Harvard’s Punishment of Single-Sex Club Members Won’t Apply to Those at Student Newspaper

    May 26, 2016

    By Staff at The College Fix Blacklisted from Harvard student leadership because you are a member of a final club, fraternity or sorority? The Crimson is the place for you!… Read more here.

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  • Could Single-Sex Final Clubs sue Harvard Over new Restrictions?

    May 11, 2016

    By Eric Levenson at Boston.com After Harvard issued new restrictions on students who join single-sex social groups, opponents raised the possibility of challenging the university in court on the grounds that Harvard violated the right to free association… Read more here.

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  • Eroding Student Freedom, one Authoritarian Policy at a Time

    May 10, 2016

    By Wendy Kaminer at WBUR Harvard University, ultra-exclusive dispenser of lifelong privileges, now claims that “privilege and exclusion (are) at odds with our deepest values.” Seriously. Does this mean that Harvard will begin loosening its admission requirements and start offering free tuition to all undergraduates (with the exception, perhaps, of gazillionaire kids)?… Read more here.

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  • Students, Activists Decry Harvard Sanctions on Single-Sex Groups

    May 10, 2016

    By Morgan Chalfant at The Washington Free Beacon Harvard University administrators are facing intense criticism from students and activists after establishing a policy that will sanction students who become members of unrecognized single-sex organizations… Read more here.

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  • National Fraternity and Sorority Groups Condemn Harvard’s New Policy On Single-Gender Clubs

    May 9, 2016

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post A group of national fraternity associations on Monday criticized Harvard University’s announcement that the Ivy League school will bar members of unrecognized, single-sex social clubs from holding leadership positions on campus… Read more here.

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  • Angry at Harvard’s Attack on Freedom of Association? Vote! Quickly!

    May 9, 2016

    By Sasha Volokh at The Washington Post You may have heard about Harvard’s new policy, under which people who join single-gender associations (like fraternities or Harvard’s secretive “finals clubs”, none of which are formally recognized by Harvard) won’t be allowed to be athletic team captains or leaders of student groups and won’t be able to get recommendations for certain scholarships. (Here’s a Harvard Crimson article about it, here’s a post about it from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, here’s a Reason article about it, and here’s a Morning Mix postquestioning whether the ban should apply to all-women groups.)… Read […]

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  • National Fraternity and Sorority Groups Condemn Harvard’s New Policy on Single-Gender Clubs

    May 9, 2016

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post A group of national fraternity associations on Monday criticized Harvard University’s announcement that the Ivy League school will bar members of unrecognized, single-sex social clubs from holding leadership positions on campus… Read more here.

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  • Harvard Takes Action Against Final Clubs

    May 9, 2016

    By Staff at Inside Higher Ed Harvard University announced plans Friday that would discourage students from joining final clubs — off-campus organizations, many of which bar women from membership — and unrecognized fraternities and sororities. Starting with new students next year, those who join these clubs will be barred from leadership positions in other student organizations and on athletic teams, and will not be eligible to be endorsed for top fellowships and scholarships. The move follows debate at Harvard, and a report noting that the clubs create an environment in which many students feel unwelcome and in which sexist treatment is […]

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  • Harvard to Ban Members of ‘Single-Gender Social Clubs’ From Holding Leadership Positions Across the University

    May 7, 2016

    By Tré Goins-Phillips at The Blaze Starting with Harvard University’s class 0f 2021, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender clubs, like fraternities and sororities, will be barred from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized college groups… Read more here.

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  • Harvard Will Punish Who Join Fraternities Because They’re ‘Privileged’

    May 6, 2016

    By Robby Soave at Reason Harvard University President Drew Faust has made the shameful decision to punish students who want to join male-only and female-only clubs… Read more here.

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  • Harvard Imposes PC Blacklist on Off-Campus Groups

    May 6, 2016

    By Bob Unruh at WorldNetDaily One might conclude that is Harvard’s ultimate objective after the ultra-progressive university on Friday announced the imposition of a politically correct blacklist of “single-sex” off-campus organizations… Read more here.

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  • Harvard Intensifies Battle Against Single-Gender Clubs

    May 6, 2016

    By Nick Anderson and Justin Wm. Moyer at The Washington Post Harvard University on Friday announced new steps to combat gender discrimination in student social organizations, an action meant to curb the influence of certain venerable, all-male societies known as “final clubs” as well as fraternities, sororities and other groups that accept only men or only women… Read more here.

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  • Harvard Will Punish Students who Join Single-Sex Clubs

    May 6, 2016

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller Harvard University announced new policies Friday intended to punish any student who joins a single-sex social club… Read more here.

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  • Shocking twist: Harvard club ban had only 7 votes from 27-member committee

    July 24, 2017

    In the Harvard social organization ban/blacklist saga, it is not an exaggeration to say that each development has been more outrageous than the last. The latest one comes from what former Harvard College Dean Harry R. Lewis described as “the blockbuster news story of the year by the [The Harvard] Crimson.” On Friday, the Crimson reported that the surprising recommendation to ban all social organizations received only 7 votes from the 27-member Committee on the Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations, which had been empaneled to review implementation of last year’s plan to blacklist members of off-campus single-gender clubs. And according to […]

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  • Harvard students, faculty, alumni, vow fight against ‘deeply disturbing’ social club ban

    July 17, 2017

    Members of the Harvard community say they will push back against a faculty committee’s recommendation that all exclusive social clubs be banned. In a report released last week by a committee expected to dial back last year’s controversial policy to sanction single-gender clubs like fraternities and sororities, the committee instead doubled down, urging Harvard to eliminate all off-campus social clubs due to their “pernicious influence.” If enacted, noncompliance would prompt formal punishment. “We’re all very disappointed and angered,” said Conor Healy, a rising junior and president of the Harvard College Open Campus Initiative, which advocates for free expression on campus. […]

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  • Harvard’s Steven Pinker on proposal to ban social clubs: ‘This is a terrible recommendation’

    July 13, 2017

    Members of the Harvard University community are reacting to news yesterday that a faculty committee recommends the Ivy League institution eliminate all exclusive social clubs. The ban would effectively shutter any Harvard-connected off-campus clubs, including all fraternities and sororities, by the year 2022 — despite Harvard’s continued promises of unfettered freedom of association for its students. In a statement to FIRE, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker has detailed his objections to the policy. Among Pinker’s accolades for his groundbreaking work in the fields of psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics, are two Pulitzer Prize nominations and numerous awards from groups like […]

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  • Harvard committee proposes banning all social clubs; punishing violators

    July 12, 2017

    Harvard students could soon be banned from joining any private social organization or club. If the recommendations contained in a just-released, 22-page report are enacted, Harvard would extend previously-proposed sanctions against students joining single-gender clubs, to all “fraternities, sororities, and similar organizations,” regardless of their co-ed status. And instead of instituting a blacklist — leaving non-compliant students unable to captain Harvard-recognized sports teams, or be nominated for prestigious scholarships, for example — violators would be subject to formal “disciplinary action.” This latest proposal comes from the same faculty committee empaneled to “revise or replace” a previous, controversial proposal to blacklist […]

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  • The bell tolls for Harvard President Drew Faust — not the Liberty Bell!

    June 16, 2017

    This classic FIRE headline marks the news, which broke Wednesday, that Drew Gilpin Faust will be stepping down as president of Harvard University next year. Faust’s decade-long tenure as president has frequently seen the institution set at odds both with FIRE and its own promises to students. A quick and non-exhaustive rundown includes: In 2008, Harvard threatened to cancel a party planned by two Latino student groups because the party was to be called “Barely Legal.” In response to a letter from FIRE, Harvard claimed that it would and should spend time policing party themes because the party was to […]

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  • Harvard president defends free speech in commencement speech; Harvard still actively suppresses student rights

    May 26, 2017

    Yesterday, Harvard celebrated its 366th commencement, and those watching in the audience and at home were treated to an ironic display as Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust gave an address in full support of free speech. The speech includes an eloquent defense of the merits of free speech, making many of the points that FIRE has been making and endorsing since our founding in 1999. Especially compelling is Faust’s nuanced treatment of the cost of freedom of expression, how that cost is necessarily paid for the pursuit of the truth, and the responsibility it places in us as members of […]

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  • FIRE Q&A: Harvard sorority president Rebecca Ramos

    May 2, 2017

    Since it was first announced a year ago, FIRE has repeatedly criticized numerous aspects of Harvard University’s plan to sanction members of off-campus, single-gender clubs. The proposal would institute a Communist-era blacklist, barring students in all-male or all-female social organizations like fraternities and sororities from leadership roles in campus clubs, preventing them from captaining sports teams, rendering them ineligible for prestigious scholarship recommendations, and more. While apparently intended to target the controversial, unofficial Harvard men’s final clubs and curb both gender-based inequality and sexual assault on campus, the blanket ban has drawn the ire of a number of student groups, […]

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  • Harvard anti-gender discrimination policy threatens to violate Title IX by recommending gender discrimination

    April 7, 2017

    We’ve chronicled the myriad problems with Harvard’s plan to sanction members of single gender organizations, initially proposed last May as as a means of ending “gender-based discrimination [which] is understood as unwise, unenlightened, and untenable.” While a worthy objective, the policy would destroy Harvard students’ right to freedom of association by blacklisting and sanctioning members of off-campus groups like final clubs, fraternities, and sororities. It has also been mired in months of controversy after being introduced with little student or faculty input and, apparently, even less thought about its practical consequences. Never has that been clearer than right now, after […]

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  • Faculty motion against Harvard blacklist policy kicked to committee led by policy’s architect

    March 28, 2017

    Dean who drafted controversial sanctions proposal and said he would implement it will head oversight committee. That committee will now review a faculty motion opposing the sanctions. Harvard is poised to advance its discriminatory policy unchecked. A brief flicker of hope in the ongoing saga over Harvard University’s blacklist of single-gender social organizations (which would extend to final clubs, sororities, and fraternities) was snuffed out last week when Harvard’s Faculty Council delegated a motion opposing the sanctions to a committee chaired by the very Harvard administrator who drafted the those sanctions in the first place. Just two weeks ago, David A. […]

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  • Harvard blacklist saga gets even more unbelievable as dean appoints self to review self

    March 9, 2017

    The Roman poet Juvenal once posed the question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Or, as it’s generally said in English, “Who watches the watchmen?” In light of recent developments in the saga of Harvard University’s proposed sanctions against members of single-gender social organizations originally recommended by Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana, Khurana’s answer appears to be: “I will watch myself, thank you very much.” The drafting and implementation of the proposed sanctions that would blacklist members of these single-sex clubs — including students in sororities, fraternities, and final clubs — and, in turn, gut associational rights at the Ivy League […]

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  • Harvard dean: I will implement ‘nearly all’ of super blacklist

    March 6, 2017

    In a dark development in the on-going saga of Harvard sanctions on members of “unregistered single-gender social organizations,” Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana today sent Harvard students the 46-page “Final Report of the Implementation Committee for the Policy on Membership in Single Gender Social Organizations” along with a statement that he will be accepting “nearly all” of its recommendations. The report is the one that was kept under lock and key for months, and of which even the committee members who wrote it were denied copies. (No red flags there!) It is also the same report we described as […]

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  • Original Harvard blacklist committee: How can we make this worse?

    February 24, 2017

    FIRE has painstakingly covered the proposed sanctions at Harvard that would blacklist members of single-gender organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs,” barring them from leadership positions and prestigious programs like the Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships. These proposed sanctions eviscerate Harvard students’ freedom of association. FIRE said as much in an open letter earlier this month to the Harvard community printed as a full-page ad in The Harvard Crimson. This proposal is so egregious that it also earned Harvard an entry in our 2017 list of the “10 Worst Schools for Free Speech”. We even detailed how these sanctions […]

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  • FIRE Announces America’s 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2017

    February 22, 2017

    PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 22, 2017—More than 92 percent of American colleges maintain speech codes that either clearly restrict—or could too easily be used to restrict—free speech. Each year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at campus censorship to identify America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech. The 2017 list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech—published today with detailed descriptions at The Huffington Post—includes both public and private institutions. Public colleges and universities are bound by the First Amendment. Private colleges on this list are not required by the Constitution to respect student and […]

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  • Harvard’s Troubled History with Free Association: Part 2

    February 7, 2017

    Yesterday we brought you the first installment of a two-part series prompted by our open letter to Harvard University published in The Harvard Crimson yesterday. The full-page ad, which ran again today, details the school’s troubling history with freedom of association and links it to current administrative efforts to blacklist student-members of off-campus, single-gender social clubs. In Part 1, we discussed Harvard’s long-hidden 1920 “Secret Court” files—uncovered by an intrepid student journalist in the early 2000s—revealing that Harvard systematically interrogated students about alleged homosexual activity, asking them to make confessions and name associates. At least one suicide was linked to […]

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  • Harvard’s Troubled History with Free Association: Part 1

    February 6, 2017

    As you may know, FIRE has been a vocal opponent of Harvard’s proposed blacklist for student members of independent, single-gender organizations including sororities, fraternities, and final clubs. The proposed sanctions for blacklisted students make a mockery of freedom of association at Harvard by barring members of these social clubs from leading sports teams or on-campus organizations and disqualifying them from receiving the dean’s recommendation necessary to apply for prestigious programs like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. What’s more, the policy represents a new milestone in Harvard’s long history of troubling attacks on these rights—a track record of which current students […]

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  • Harvard: Blacklist Policy Might Be ‘Revised or Replaced’

    January 26, 2017

    BOSTON, Jan. 26, 2017—Late yesterday, Harvard University announced it will reconsider a policy that would have blacklisted members of independent sororities, fraternities, and “final clubs” from leadership of athletic teams and school organizations, and from recommendations for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has led a national campaign (VIDEO) against the policy since it was unilaterally announced last May by Harvard administrators. The policy would shred students’ freedom of association rights. The decision to reconsider the blacklist policy comes just days before the Harvard College faculty was set to vote on a nondiscrimination resolution […]

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  • Harvard President to Consider ‘Alternatives’ to Final Club Policy, but Reveals Troubling Views on Freedom of Association

    November 7, 2016

    After months of criticism over a mandate FIRE and others have denounced as a “deeply objectionable” attack on freedom of association, Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust said she may consider alternatives to the controversial new policy that will create a “blacklist” of members of off-campus, single-sex social clubs starting next fall. But Faust’s latest comments, made in a recent interview and reported today in the Harvard Crimson, also reveal the Harvard administration’s misguided understanding of freedom of association generally—views that, while troubling, could provide insight on a path forward for First Amendment advocates at the Ivy League institution. “I’ve […]

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  • Professors Standing Up for Freedom of Association at Harvard

    September 13, 2016

    Harvard University has faced widespread criticism since its May announcement that it would sanction members of off-campus, single-gender clubs. The administration claims it’s part of an effort to “address deeply rooted gender attitudes, and the related issues of sexual misconduct.” Now a small group of professors say that they hope the Harvard faculty adopt a motion they’ve authored which would prevent the Harvard administration from discriminating against students “on the basis of their organizational memberships.” If it passes, it may just signal hope for the future of freedom of association at Harvard. In an op-ed published today in The Harvard […]

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  • Harvard to Student Club: Lie About Your Policies and You’ll Be OK

    August 16, 2016

    Harvard University’s ill-conceived decision to blacklist students who join off-campus, single-sex social organizations continues to backfire, forcing administrators to make exceptions to the overbroad policy. The latest one would permit an off-campus women’s club to remain female-only without violating the policy that supposedly punishes “gender-based discrimination.” This strongly suggests that the real motivation behind the policy is not sex or gender discrimination at all—it’s that the Harvard administration simply doesn’t like certain groups and is willing to be as deceptive as is necessary to try to eliminate them. If you go to Harvard, beware: The Harvard Crimson reported yesterday on […]

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  • I Condemn the Harvard Club I Almost Joined, But It Has My Support

    July 22, 2016

    One brisk fall night, my friends and I donned ties and blazers in anticipation. An all-male final club had invited us to an event and dictated our evening’s attire. Dozens of young men populated the small backyard of the turn-of-the-century club house. Food, beer, and handshakes fueled the buzz of nervous socializing. The Club wanted me, and it felt good to be wanted. Over a year later, I have difficulty fathoming the thought of having been so excited at the prospect of membership in the exclusive Club. The culture I encountered repelled me, overwhelming a strong predisposition to embrace the […]

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  • Harvard Faculty, Students, Alumni Condemn Social Club Blacklist (VIDEO)

    July 11, 2016

    Harvard University’s announcement that it will blacklist students who join single-gender social organizations—banning them from holding leadership positions in Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs), captaining sports teams, or even getting recommendations for some scholarships—has been criticized by students, faculty, and alumni, including some of Harvard’s biggest names. Economics professor and Harvard president emeritus Larry Summers; cognitive scientist and psychology professor Steven Pinker; and civil rights attorney, author, and FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate are among those who talked with FIRE for our latest video (above), and explained why Harvard’s attempt to foster “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes” by punishing […]

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  • Harvard Faculty and Former President Oppose University’s Threat of Sanctions for Independent Club Members

    May 25, 2016

    Two weeks ago, FIRE wrote Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust to express our grave concern over the institution’s plan to impose harsh sanctions on students who join independent, single-sex, off-campus organizations. Under the plan, students who join those groups would be prevented from serving in leadership roles in officially recognized organizations or from receiving recommendations for scholarships and fellowships.   Today, The Harvard Crimson reports that Harvard faculty have joined FIRE in publicly criticizing the new plan, submitting a sharply-worded motion arguing that students must be able to “exercise their civil right to free assembly without fear that Harvard […]

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  • Special Treatment? Harvard Exempts ‘The Harvard Crimson’ from Single-Gender Club Policy

    May 20, 2016

    Harvard University has exempted the school’s daily student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, from its new policy banning members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations from holding leadership positions in Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs). One of the many inevitable implications of Harvard’s recent attack on freedom of association is that without such an exemption, the policy would have allowed Harvard administrators to exert control over the leadership of the school’s best-known independent student newspaper, thereby compromising its editorial independence. According to Crimson president Mariel Klein, however, despite being explicitly listed as an ISO, the paper received an exemption from Dean Rakesh […]

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  • A Messy End to the Semester: Harvard, Blacklisting, and Curtailing Student Rights

    May 17, 2016

    Earlier this month, Harvard University announced that students who are members of independent, single-sex organizations off campus will be ineligible for Rhodes and Marshall scholarship recommendations from the dean. The university also prohibited recognized student organizations and athletic teams from choosing these students as their leaders. The rationale? Harvard wants to promote “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes.” As FIRE noted in our letter to Harvard, this attack on students’ freedom of association amounts to nothing more than a blacklist. And, as if that weren’t enough, Harvard’s actions are also inconsistent with its own prior statements. So, what’s happened […]

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  • ‘Gravely Concerned’ Over Social Club Sanctions, FIRE Writes to Harvard

    May 12, 2016

    FIRE has asked Harvard University to reverse the “illiberal and chilling new policy” aimed at students who join unrecognized single-sex social organizations. The policy would prohibit student-members of an array of clubs—from Harvard’s “final clubs” to any fraternity or sorority—from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams and render them ineligible for a dean’s endorsement for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and other post-graduate scholarships and fellowships. We outlined our serious concerns about Harvard’s new policy in a letter sent to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust today. FIRE’s letter criticized Harvard’s encroachment on the autonomy […]

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  • Harvard’s Double Standard on the Role of Student Organizations

    May 9, 2016

    On Friday afternoon, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Kurana sent a letter to Harvard President Drew Faust, recommending that Harvard take aggressive steps to deter students from joining off-campus, single-sex organizations. That same afternoon, President Faust sent a responsive letter agreeing with the proposal. The exchange had the appearance of a meticulously choreographed, formalistic ritual of a sort usually reserved for meetings of heads of state. As we explained on Friday, Harvard seeks to deter students from joining these unrecognized organizations by prohibiting their members from holding leadership positions on (single-sex!) athletics teams and recognized student organizations, and from receiving Dean’s […]

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  • Harvard Brings Back the Blacklist for Final Club, Fraternity, Sorority Students

    May 6, 2016

    BOSTON, May 6, 2016—In a stunning attack on freedom of association, Harvard University announced today that members of independent, single-sex, off-campus organizations will be blacklisted from Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and banned from leadership of on-campus organizations or athletic teams. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust stated that next year, members of fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs” will begin to be denied these opportunities in an effort to foster “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes.” According to Dean Rakesh Khurana, who recommended the changes, such organizations have been independent from Harvard since 1984. They operate as off-campus entities and do […]

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