The College recently decided to cancel the proposed “bridge” program for all-female unrecognized single-gender social organizations that would have allowed them to transition into compliance with the new sanctions policy over the course of a few years. Specifically, were the groups to become gender-neutral, the policy would have permitted them to maintain a “gender focus” for three to five years while not violating College policy. In light of the cancellation, administrators are promising that they will instead dedicate people and resources to specifically help all-female groups become gender-neutral.
This decision to not proceed with the program runs counter to both to the conclusions of a committee that was tasked with reviewing the policies in 2017 and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s acceptance of those conclusions. However, we firmly believe that the bridge program is not the best way Harvard could allocate its resources to vital women’s issues.
In the past, unrecognized groups focused on women's empowerment—like the Sab Club (formerly known as the Sablière Society)—have become fully gender-neutral successfully in the past with no major troubles transitioning into their new membership or programming. Indeed, when it underwent this transition, members of the Sab Club stated that it kept and strengthened its mission of female empowerment by allowing non-women into an originally female space.
Thus, we believe a bridge program would have been unnecessary and have simply delayed the inevitability of gender neutrality for these organizations. Indeed, successful integration into gender neutrality does not require a program that leaves all-female organizations with one foot in and one foot out of the sanctions—such an initiative could sow confusion instead of a commitment to the goals of inclusivity and diversity. On the contrary, in order to truly excise exclusivity from the female unrecognized social organizations, the support and attention of the University on women’s issues will be required more than anything else.
Though the University’s language is vague and non-specific, we support its decision to aid unrecognized all-female organizations, especially during this important transition. We believe the most important thing the University can do in doing so is address the specific challenges women and female-identifying students experience and aid the organizations that are dedicated to the alleviation of those challenges. Additionally, if the University specifically has the funds to support women's initiatives, they should do so by supporting organizations on campus that address women's issues directly, including the Harvard College Women’s Center.
There are many ways the University can support women on this campus; the bridge program simply was not one of the most effective ways it could have done so. While aiding all-female social organizations in the transition to gender neutrality is important, the University should not pass the buck on responsibility for allowing women to thrive here.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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