After countless instances of alcohol abuse and sexual assault among the exclusive all-male “final” clubs at Harvard University, the administration sought a change. The school took a survey and found that of the female seniors, 47% had faced sexual assault during their time at Harvard. This shocking data led administrators to take the steps to cleanse the school of one-gender groups to avoid any type of discrimination and improve campus safety for all students.
Rather than forcing the students toward equality, Harvard provided a choice for the members of the one-gender groups. Either they could remain a part of the group, change the membership availability to allow any student to join the group, or forfeit scholarships, any leadership position affiliated with Harvard, and varsity sports team captain positions.
Recently, the female sorority at Harvard, Kappa Alpha Theta, unanimously voted to allow students of any gender to rush their new social organization, Theta Zeta Xi. They will continue to participate in Harvard’s spring sorority recruitment this year, and based on upholding their gender-neutral agreement, Harvard may take the steps to grant them “Full Recognition,” on campus. For now, they only have “Interim Recognition,” and until they prove Harvard’s “commitment to diversity, equity, and non-discrimination,” the members will not be exempt from the non-discrimination sanctions for one-gender groups.
A representative of Theta Zeta Xi told Teen Vogue, “While this decision was not the result of any direct pressure, the social organization policy in place forces students considering our organization to make a choice between holding leadership positions and applying for scholarships and fellowships, and being members of a community specifically designed to support and empower college women to have those aspirations.”
When the sanctions were first instituted for the class of 2021, Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Phi collaborated to publicly announce their lack of endorsement for a gender-neutral recruitment. Each sorority continued with a strictly female recruitment for the spring of 2018, however now, Theta has lost the urge to fight this change due to the unforgiving sanctions in place. The sorority released a statement, “This decision reflects our commitment to supporting our members as they take full advantage of the academic and leadership opportunities available to them as Harvard students, which we believe is central to our mission.”
Many other organizations have already neutralized their gender membership requirements, including the non-Greek organizations, the Oak Club, the Sablière Society, the Seneca and the Spee Club. The first Greek organizations to disaffiliate from their national chapters to become gender-neutral were fraternities, Kappa Sigma and Alpha Epsilon Pi in the fall of 2017. By January of 2018, Kappa Kappa Gamma was the first Harvard social sorority to become a gender-neutral group called the Fleur-de-lis.
Harvard University told Dailymail.com, “We seek to build a community where our students can flourish – supported by a strong foundation of community values like belonging, inclusion, and non-discrimination.”
“We are grateful for our students’ hard work to transform their organizations into ones that advance these shared community values. We look forward to continuing to partner with them as we move forward.”
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