Harvard sorority closes in response to co-ed sanctions.
A Harvard University sorority has shut itself down due to a new policy penalizing members of “unrecognized single-gender social organizations.”
The Delta Gamma fraternity chapter at Harvard, Zeta Phi, voted in May to relinquish its charter, according to a press release from Delta Gamma that specifically cites the new sanctions as the impetus for that decision.
After an extended debate, Harvard adopted new rules in December that prevent members of single-gender groups from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations and sports teams. Single-gender organization members will also be ineligible for endorsements for academic fellowship opportunities.
“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances,” Rakesh Khurana, college dean wrote in support of the policy in 2016, according to The Harvard Crimson.
“The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message that they are the exclusive preserves of men,” Khurana argued. “In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community.”
While at least one sorority has agreed to become “gender-neutral” in order to comply with the new policy, others, including Delta Gamma, vowed to continue operating as female-only sororities in defiance of the ban.
On May 14, however, the Delta Gamma Fraternity Council voted to accept the Cambridge chapter’s decision to relinquish its charter, initiating a 60-day period during which members of the chapter were invited to weigh in on the proposal.
“Our collegians in the Cambridge Area have shown great courage and strength over the last several years. They have expressed that the sanctions put forth by the University have negatively impacted them. It was important to us to listen to our members and respect their decision at this time. However, we will continue to fight these sanctions because our members, our sisterhood deserves better,” remarked Fraternity President Stacia Rudge Skoog, of the Beta Zeta-Denison chapter.
“Delta Gamma, along with Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and many other organizations, has been actively working to reverse the sanctions introduced by the University in May 2016,” the press release noted. “These sanctions, effective with the current freshman class, penalize members of unrecognized single-gender organizations by banning them from other opportunities on campus.”
Following the conclusion of that comment period, the Delta Gamma national organization released an official statement last week announcing that the Fraternity Council had unanimously voted to close the chapter.
“This decision does not mean that we are succumbing to the University’s new sanctions and policies regarding participation in unrecognized single-gender organizations like ours,” said Delta Gamma President Wilma Johnson Wilbanks. “We will continue to champion our right to exist on campuses everywhere. We believe the value of sorority is too great.”
“We respect the chapter’s decision and understand that the University’s sanctions resulted in an environment in which Delta Gamma could not thrive,” Wilbanks added. “We sincerely hope this changes in the future.”
The new policy, which took effect for the class of 2021, has had drastic effects on the recruitment interest of students trying to rush Greek life. Only 100 students signed up to attend the annual Greek recruitment event in 2018, compared to 286 students in 2017 and 280 in 2016, according to documents obtained by The Harvard Crimson.
“Harvard College seeks to build a community in which every student can thrive, and it does so on the foundation of a set of shared values including belonging, inclusion, and non-discrimination,” Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane told The Crimson in response to Delta Gamma’s closure.
“The policy on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (USGSO) is designed to dedicate resources to those organizations that are advancing principles of inclusivity, while offering them supportive pathways as they transform into organizations that align with the educational philosophy, mission, and values of the College,” Dane added.