Touting their exemption from the College’s sanctions against single-gender social organizations, four former sororities have partnered to sponsor a joint recruitment process for new members during the spring semester.
The groups — the Fleur-de-Lis, the Ivy, the Kali Praxi, and the Themis Asteri Club — all adopted gender-neutral membership policies in the years after administrators debuted the sanctions in spring 2016, and they subsequently received official recognition from the College and became Recognized Social Organizations. The clubs are inviting all Harvard undergraduates to participate in their recruitment activities, which start in early February.
The sanctions — which took effect with the Class of 2021 — bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from holding student group leadership positions, captaining varsity athletic teams, and receiving College endorsement for certain prestigious fellowships.
Club leaders wrote in a statement posted on their recruitment website that students who join the groups will not incur negative consequences. The groups are “open to all students at Harvard who have completed at least one semester at the College,” according to a section of the website titled “New Beginnings.”
“These groups are gender-neutral and their members remain in good-faith compliance with College non-discrimination and social group policies,” the website reads. “In other words: no sanctions.”
The four groups’ joint recruitment push comes after interest in sorority recruitment dipped by more than half in 2018 — the first year the sanctions applied to some sorority hopefuls.
Members of the organizing committee spearheading the recruitment effort, which comprises leaders from the four social groups, wrote in an emailed statement that the groups decided to hold a joint recruitment so that prospective members could meet a variety of members from the different RSOs and choose the group that they most identify with.
“Joint recruitment is an important part of making groups diverse and inclusive because it gives all prospective members an equal opportunity to meet all four groups regardless of past connections,” the statement reads.
Margaret E. Reynolds ’20, president of the Ivy, said that the clubs are “trying to make it explicitly clear” that the sanctions don’t apply to their members and that she does not think fear of the penalties will deter students from signing up.
“You don't want to have to choose between your community and academic or career opportunities,” she said. “So we're doing everything in our power to not have to make someone make that decision.”
Reynolds said the groups have eliminated registration fees — which sororities had required when they held their joint recruitment — in an effort to increase accessibility.
Senior Director of Student Organizations and Resources at the Dean of Students Office Kate Colleran — who is advising the RSOs — wrote in an emailed statement that she is “very excited” about their joint recruitment. Though the DSO provided check-in discussions, financial resources, and spaces for recruitment events, Colleran wrote that the RSOs organized the joint recruitment strategy themselves.
“For some of the historically under-resourced RSOs, this is going to be a great way to pool their resources and members to have an impactful recruitment,” Colleran wrote. “I think it also shows the [teamwork] and communication that is going on within the RSOs as a larger group.”
Reynolds the recruitment process will consist of four rounds of activities over the course of eight days in February, including meet-and-greet social events with current club members, group outings involving excursions like ice skating, and one-on-one conversations between current and prospective members. Online registration for the joint recruitment events will close on Feb. 1.
Even as the former sororities work with the College to hold joint, gender-neutral recruitment, some single-gender groups continue to fight the sanctions.
National organizations for Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Alpha Phi, and a Delta Gamma management corporation — parent groups of the four former sororities that are now RSOs — are among the plaintiffs in a pair of lawsuits filed in state and federal court in December 2018 that allege the College’s policy is discriminatory, coercive, and unconstitutional. National organizations for fraternities Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Chi, Harvard’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and three anonymous undergraduates in all-male clubs also joined the legal action.
Ahead of those lawsuits, Harvard’s chapter of Alpha Phi — which had disaffiliated from its national organization and gone gender-neutral as the Ivy in August — reopened in November 2018, while the Ivy continued as a gender-neutral group. Eleven former Alpha Phi members have either rejoined the single-gender sorority or “expressed interest in rejoining,” according to the complaint filed in state court.
—Staff writer Sanjana L. Narayanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @samuel_zwickel.