Multiple fraternities and sororities have challenged Harvard University’s decision to effectively shut down Greek Life
To sort out the chaos, observers must understand a number of details. First, there is the minutiae of the actual university policy.
In its official policy statement on “unrecognized single-gender social organizations (USGOs),” Harvard describes these organizations, which include Greek ones, as counter to the university’s non-discrimination principles in regards to gender because most Greek organizations are single-sex. Harvard also writes in its statement that Greek life has had a negative impact on campus, especially due to sexual assault allegations among fraternity members.
Consequently, the university announced in May 2016 that starting with the class of 2021 members of USGOs cannot hold leadership positions in other student organizations or athletic teams or obtain letters of recommendation from the Dean of Students for fellowships if they do not become coed. In May 2017, the president and fellows of the university voted to keep this policy in place and to review its effectiveness after five years.
The enactment of this policy has incited national backlash. In early December 2018, two national fraternities, Sigma Chi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and two national sororities, Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Kappa Gamma, sued Harvard University over the 2016 rule in Boston’s federal court. Additionally, Alpha Phi, another sorority, filed a separate lawsuit against Harvard in Massachusetts state court. These two cases are the first legal challenges against Harvard’s policy, and they both argue the “non-discriminatory” policy actually is sexual discrimination that enflames negative stereotypes about Greek organizations.
Sorority members have argued that women need this form of single-gender space and have questioned why they have follow the same guidelines as fraternities if Harvard views fraternities as the source of the most misbehavior.
Two of the plaintiffs, Sigma Chi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, have struggled to recruit and have faced financial woes due to the decrease in members. The Harvard chapters of Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Kappa Gamma had to disband and rechristen themselves as co-ed groups.
A number of other fraternities and sororities not involved in either lawsuit have publicly protested Harvard’s decisions, including the sorority Sigma Kappa. The national sorority’s Twitter page provided a link to standuptoharvard.org.
“Students deserve the right to shape their own leadership and social paths, and such decisions shouldn’t be dictated to them by administrators,” says the website.
Flyer News reached out to UD’s Sigma Kappa for comments, but they declined.
The president of UD’s Sigma Nu chapter, Rodger McNaughton, is pleased that Greek life is “fighting back against [Harvard] University.”
“The fact that people can’t hold leadership positions in other areas is ridiculous,” McNaughton said. “Fraternities, at least Sigma Nu, strives to create leaders in today’s age by sticking to our core values of love, truth and honor.”
The lawsuits are pending and there have been no updates since either was filed; more will likely come in the ensuing months.