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A national BGLTQ support organization charged Harvard with contriving a shortsighted solution to issues of sexual assault and discrimination as it moves to implement a new policy that will punish members of single-gender, unrecognized social groups.
Campus Pride, an organization for BGLTQ college students, released a statement last Wednesday asking the University to reconsider sanctions that will, starting with the Class of 2021, bar members of male and female final clubs, fraternities, and sororities from holding leadership positions in College-recognized clubs and disqualify them from Harvard endorsement for some prestigious fellowships.
“Harvard’s policy will not fix the serious campus problems of sexual assault or discrimination—much less classism and racism,” Shane L. Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride, wrote in a press release. “It will only drive them further underground. Blocking access or restricting rights is never the answer to complex issues.”
“Harvard College is committed to building an inclusive campus community where all students have equal opportunity to live, learn, and thrive and we have the obligation to establish general regulations and standards that shape our Harvard community in a manner that is consistent with our educational philosophy,” he wrote in a statement through Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven.
In the statement, Campus Pride sided with national greek and fraternal organizations, which sharply condemned Harvard’s sanctions after they were announced in early May. Campus Pride has advocated for BGLTQ inclusion in fraternities and sororities across the country for nearly 20 years, Windmeyer wrote, particularly for transgender people who wish to join organizations that correspond to their gender identity, rather than their assigned biological sex.
“For some trans and LGB young people, there is great value, affirmation and personal growth from being part of a single-gendered brotherhood or sisterhood,” he wrote, emphasizing that the organization supported students’ rights to join groups of their choosing, even as it sympathized with Harvard’s goal of tackling sexual assault and exclusivity.
Harvard’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life deferred comment to the College spokesperson Rachael Dane.
BGLTQ advocate Brianna J. Suslovic ’16 wrote in an email that she thought the organization was operating “from a limited context.”
“Given the clubs' tendency to be disproportionately straight, white, and cisgender male, I do not see how these clubs serve to benefit the majority of Harvard's diverse queer and trans communities, especially for those who identify outside of the gender binary,” she wrote.
Several campus groups strongly criticized the sanctions after they were announced. Members of sororities and female final clubs rallied in Harvard Yard, and fraternities and male final clubs—though not as outwardly vocal—are beginning to consult lawyers to tackle the sanctions. While none have pledged legal action yet, at least one fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, has approached legal counsel.
And in late May, 12 faculty members drafted a motion to oppose Harvard’s position, resolving that “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”
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