News

Anthropology Dept. Forms Eight Committees in Response to Harassment and Gender Bias Concerns

News

Harvard Cancels Summer 2021 Study Abroad Programming

News

UC Showcases Project Shedding Light on How Harvard Uses Student Data

News

Four Bank Robberies Strike Cambridge in Three Weeks

News

After a Rocky Year, Harvard Faces an Uncertain Economic Climate in 2021, Hollister Says

Harvard Drops Social Group Sanctions

2020 in Review: Harvard Abandons Social Club Sanctions After Four Years

The flags of the Bee and the Delphic Clubs fly outside the clubhouse on Linden St. historically owned by the Delphic. The two clubs shared their membership and clubhouse from 2017 until this year, when Harvard dropped its controversial sanctions against single-gendered social organizations.
The flags of the Bee and the Delphic Clubs fly outside the clubhouse on Linden St. historically owned by the Delphic. The two clubs shared their membership and clubhouse from 2017 until this year, when Harvard dropped its controversial sanctions against single-gendered social organizations. By Derek G. Xiao
By Sixiao Yu, Crimson Staff Writer

This story is part of The Crimson's Ten Stories That Shaped 2020 series. To view other parts, click here.

The University announced in June that it would drop its controversial sanctions against single-gendered social organizations following a Supreme Court ruling on sex discrimination.

First established in 2016, the sanctions prohibited members of single-gendered final clubs and Greek organizations from receiving fellowships, athletic captancies, and leadership positions in extracurricular activities. As a result, many final clubs and Greek organizations on campus became co-ed by reforming their membership process or merging with other social organizations.

First applied to the Class of 2021, the sanctions received intense scrutiny and spawned a pair of lawsuits in state court and federal court.

In announcing the reversal, University President Lawrence S. Bacow said it was clear federal courts would rule against the University in the social sanctions lawsuits, given the Supreme Court's historic decision in Bostock v. Clayton County earlier that month, ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against BGLTQ workers.

Some professors at Harvard Law School were not as certain the case would have undermined Harvard’s case for sanctions. Law School Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen speculated that Harvard decided to drop this lawsuit because it was “not as important as some other things it is currently defending in the courts, such as the Harvard admissions case.”

Nonetheless, internal communications and reports after the federal lawsuit revealed that Harvard administrators were hard-pressed in selling the sanctions to students and alumni from the beginning. In their early discussions, administrators struggled to combat various misconceptions and define the scope of the sanctions. They also acknowledged that sanctions against all-female social groups in particular would be “collateral damage.”

Though Harvard will no longer uphold the social sanctions, Bacow reinforced the University’s commitment to dismantling gender barriers that limit opportunities for students.

One month after the decision, the co-ed Delphic-Bee Club announced it will split back into the all-male Delphic Club and all-female Bee Club. This marks an end to the three year merger during which the two clubs shared a clubhouse on 9 Linden St. It is not yet clear how other co-ed social organizations will react to the sanctions being dropped.

—Staff writer Sixiao Yu can be reached at sixiao.yu@thecrimson.com.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
CollegeFinal ClubsSocial Group Sanctions