Harvard President Lawrence Bacow says the elite, private schools’s rule prohibiting award of scholarship and leadership posts to members of single-sex fraternities and finals club is no more, citing this month’s historic Supreme Court decision prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.
“We together came to the view that, in the circumstances, the College will not be able to carry forward with the existing policy under the prevailing interpretation of federal law,” Mr. Bacow wrote in a letter to the Harvard community on Monday.
A recent federal court decision in Boston also tipped the field against the school in its pursuit of dissuading students from joining off-campus, unfunded, single-gender social organizations.
“Harvard’s effort to crush one of America’s most fundamental freedoms for its students failed in the court of public opinion and was failing in the court of law,” said Robert Shibley, executive director of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, on Tuesday.
FIRE had accused the school of “blacklisting” of students in single-gender social groups from receiving fellowships and scholarships, and the school was sued in 2018 by a group of fraternities in sororities.
In 2016, the university president agreed with a committee’s recommendation to combat the school’s lingering legacy of entrenched privilege and racially exclusive finals clubs and fraternities by declaring participating students ineligible for certain awards and campus positions.
Saying the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month in Bostock v. Clayton County tied the university’s hands in enforcing its rule, Mr. Bacow wrote on Monday that he would continue to encourage single-gender social organizations from dropping sex and gender selectivity.
“The policy was adopted to advance the essential and unfinished work of making Harvard a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all our students,” said Mr. Bacow.