Harvard’s Drew Gilpin Faust takes on another controversy: Bars members of single-gender clubs from leadership roles

Historians in the News
tags: Harvard



Members of single-gender social clubs at Harvard University will be banned from holding leadership positions in official campus organizations or on sports teams beginning in the fall of 2017, the university announced Friday.

Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, the first woman to hold the position, wrote a letter to the university describing the changes:

“Culture change is not easy, and members of our community will inevitably disagree about how to move forward. … But we have as our touchstone an educational experience in which students of all backgrounds come together, learn from each other, and enjoy the transformational possibilities presented by sustained exposure to difference. By reinforcing core principles of non-discrimination and inclusion, the recommendations of the college represent an important next step in our ongoing progress toward that goal.”


Ms. Faust noted that she agreed with a recommendation that, “at this time, the college should not adopt a rule prohibiting students from joining unrecognized social organizations that retain discriminatory membership policies,” saying that students would decide themselves whether to do so.

The sanctions will apply to Greek life and the unofficial social organizations known as final clubs. The clubs have been present at Harvard for more than a century, but they have long faced criticism as havens of male privilege. That scrutiny intensified in March, when a university task forced released a reportthat called out the clubs for fostering a misogynistic culture that contributed to the problem of sexual assault. Two of the clubs at Harvard have opened their memberships to women, as similar organizations at other Ivy League colleges did during the 1990s.

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the college, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,” Ms. Faust wrote in her letter.




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