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 not receive any recognition or benefit from the university.
“Outrageously, Harvard has decided that 2016 is the right time to revive the blacklist,” said Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which defends freedom of association on campus. “This year’s undesirables are members of off-campus clubs that don’t match Harvard’s political preferences. In the 1950s, perhaps Communists would have been excluded. I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?’ Sadly, they are not.”
“Harvard’s decision simply demonstrates that it is willing to sacrifice students’ basic freedom of association to the whims of whoever occupies the administrative suites today,” said FIRE co-founder, civil liberties attorney, and Harvard Law alumnus Harvey Silverglate. “Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?”
FIRE strongly opposes President Faust’s illiberal decision and is preparing a formal response.
FIRE is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Katie Barrows, Communications Coordinator, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org