The ongoing controversy at Harvard University over “unrecognized single-gender social organizations” has claimed another victim: the Delta Gamma sorority. Harvard’s Delta Gamma chapter, facing the choice of going co-ed or having its members lose academic and leadership opportunities, chose to disband.
If you follow FIRE’s Newsdesk, you are likely aware that the Harvard administration has decided to impose penalties on members of independent single-gender social organizations, such as fraternities, sororities, and Harvard-specific groups called “final clubs,” ostensibly because their single-gender membership practices are “discriminatory.” The penalties include loss of eligibility for: leadership of student groups and sports teams; prestigious programs such as the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships; and post-graduate fellowship programs at Harvard. Essentially, Harvard has created a blacklist, asserting its authority over the private lives of its students to the extent that freedom of association is dead at Harvard.
Delta Gamma, being an organization that is “open to all individuals who identify as women,” runs afoul of this policy.
Affected women’s groups have been particularly outspoken against the sanctions since they were first made public. Shortly after the policy was announced in May 2016, hundreds of Harvard women marched in the “Hear Her Harvard” protest. At the protest, Delta Gamma member Rebecca Ramos argued about the importance of female-centered spaces, saying the sanctions policy “[has] taken away our place to speak openly about women’s issues and actively empower each other and other women, and in doing so, they effectively turn back the clock on all of our progress.”
In May 2017, FIRE interviewed Ramos, then-president of Delta Gamma, and she shared more about her experiences: “Looking around at all of my sisters, the support that I have received from them and provided to them, in terms of academic support, mental support, and emotional support, is just unparalleled. Harvard’s a really hard place to be and those support networks are so incredibly vital to students’ success. I would really hate to see those go away.”
Since that interview, other sororities have gone co-ed, but Ramos’s closing comments proved unfortunately prescient in Delta Gamma’s case: “As an outgoing chapter president, I would never feel comfortable making one of my members choose between being in a sorority and having all of these other opportunities, like applying for a Fulbright scholarship or captaining a sports team. We’re here to support all of our members in everything that they do.”
“What Harvard is doing completely goes against our mission. It’s not right,” Ramos said. FIRE agrees.