It hurts my heart to know that something so sacred, historic and filled with tradition, that I consider to be a safe place, is threatened by the current policy put into place.
In May 2016, Harvard University made the decision to regulate off-campus social organizations and classify them as either registered or unregistered. At the time and still to this day, sororities,
fraternities and other single-sex organizations, called final clubs, at Harvard University are considered to be unregistered organizations.
Starting with the 2021 undergraduate class, students involved in any unregistered off-campus organization, be it a sorority or another unregistered social group, are not allowed to hold leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams. Along with that, those students are also ineligible to receive the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. In order for an organization to be recognized by the university, it must allow both men and women to be a part of the group.
I’m a proud member of the 2017 Fall Member Class of Delta Gamma, and if I had gone to Harvard, this ban would have affected me and the friends I’ve made through Greek Life.
Due to the sanctions put into place, almost all of these organizations have had to either close or abandon their status as single-sex organizations and start admitting both men and women. In August 2018, Alpha Phi was the final sorority to disaffiliate with the national organization and form the co-ed group called “The Ivy.” This came a little over two years after the bans were put into place. According to a 2018 Harvard Crimson article, three final historically all-female social groups, The Pleiades Society, The IC Club and La Vie Club, applied for recognition after agreeing to become gender-neutral.
The former president of Harvard, Drew G. Faust, announced to undergraduates an email, saying that “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…” this announcement came after months of speculation and a recommendation from the Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. This affected so many students at Harvard, and the fact that this policy was addressed through an email makes it seem like Faust didn’t care enough to address students directly.
I remember hearing about what had been going on through the official Delta Gamma Instagram, and changing my Facebook profile picture to have the “Stand Up To Harvard” frame. We were encouraged to make posts on our accounts with the hashtag #HearHerHarvard about how being a part of sorority has benefitted us. Mine in particular had a quote from the musical Hamilton as my caption: “I know my sister[s] like I know my own mind, you will never find anyone as trusting or as kind.” It reigns true to this day.
There was an Instagram story going around that talked about how a sorority was more than just a house or a club, but that it’s “a gift entrusted to me to cherish... a life-long expectation...an ancient tradition... a chance to matter.”
It’s interesting that Harvard would choose to continue these sanctions put into place by the previous president, Drew Gilpin Faust, particularly because the current president of Harvard was in the Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau while he was enrolled at MIT for his undergraduate. Wouldn’t he reflect on his time as a member of Greek life and promote it as something beneficial for college students?
Harvard is in direct violation of Title IX, which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” According to the website, Harvard is also in violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble, according to the Stand Up To Harvard website. The Organization took Harvard to court and in August of 2019, the Federal District Judge overseeing the case denied Harvard’s motion to dismiss.
It was estimated by the Stand Up To Harvard campaign that one in four Harvard students was involved with an off-campus organization, whether a sorority, fraternity or a final club, compared to an estimated 31% involved with Greek life at the University of Arkansas.
Greek life at the U of A as a whole donates approximately $750,000 to its philanthropies. Philanthropy is such a big deal to sororities, especially at the UofA, that during formal recruitment, there is a round specifically dedicated to creating conversation and to show how passionate sororities are about their philanthropy. The Mission for Greek Life at the University of Arkansas says that they strive to “provide and create educational leadership opportunities through common fraternal principles as a way to actively engage and build exemplary Greek men and women for life.”
Being a part of Greek life at the University of Arkansas has taught me important skills in leadership through being the fundraising chair of my sorority. It has also encouraged me to be better in my community through volunteering with my sorority’s philanthropy, Service for Sight, as well as outside of it as well. Some of my favorite memories are at volunteer shifts with my sisters. Being in a sorority has also challenged and benefitted me academically, through having a minimum GPA that every member has to meet in order to stay a member, to study sessions for harder classes and having to meet weekly study hours.
I hope that one day, Harvard will realize how being a part of a sorority or a fraternity is more than the letters you put on your car or the badge you wear, it’s a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself. A chance to go out into the world, make a difference and evoke change through goodness put into the community and seeing it make a difference in someone’s life.