The policy had all the trappings of the latest fashion trends: rid Harvard of exclusionary same-sex organizations in the name of equality. Sounds great, except when you nail down what that actually means.
The policy in question barred students who were members of “unrecognized single-gender social organizations” like fraternities, sororities, or all-male final clubs from holding leadership positions in Harvard student groups or athletic teams and disqualified them from receiving fellowships, like the Rhodes and Mitchell scholarships, which require the university’s endorsement, according to court filings.
By “unrecognized,” they weren’t talking about secret underground anarchist cells, but the same social organizations that were well-recognized until they weren’t. Notably, there are three described, fraternities (ugh, rapists), all-male final clubs (ugh, so elitist) and sororities. Ah, so lovely, a place where women can be comfortable in the company of their sisters.
The Title IX suit against Harvard for sex discrimination (the old kind, not involving transgender people) went before United States District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton on Harvard’s motion to dismiss.
A federal judge on Friday ruled that a lawsuit filed by national sororities and fraternities challenging Harvard University’s policy on single-gender clubs may proceed, according to a court filing.
Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton denied a motion filed by Harvard to dismiss the suit completely, but agreed to dismiss three plaintiffs.
Among the school’s arguments was its policy enacted in 2017 applies equally to men and women.
But Gorton wrote in his order, “What matters is that the Policy, as applied to any particular individual, draws distinctions based on the sex of that individual.”
Harvard’s theory was that as long as it discriminated on the basis of sex against everyone, then it wasn’t sex discrimination. The court said no. But in the process, Judge Gorton dismissed the claims of three plaintiffs, one a male who was not subject to the policy, but the other two were sororities.
Among the plaintiffs in the suit, two sororities that do not currently have members at Harvard, as well as a Harvard upperclassman who is a member of an all-male group but is not subject to the policy, do not have standing to sue, according to Gorton.
On the surface, it seems fairly clear that Gorton’s dismissal of the claims of the two sororities was proper. After all, if they have no current members, then there’s no harm to be had. Except, as the Independent Women’s Forum argued in an emailed press release, the reason these two sororities had no current members is because of Harvard’s policy.
“Independent Women’s Forum agrees with Judge Gorton that the court cannot determine whether Harvard committed intentional discrimination in violation of Title IX until the record is fully developed in discovery. IWF finds it ironic, however, that two women’s sororities–the groups most severely harmed by Harvard’s policy–were dismissed from the lawsuit because they no longer have active Harvard chapters and, thus, lack standing. The reason that these sororities no longer have active chapters, of course, is because of Harvard’s policy.”
In other words, the sororities would exist, would have members, would have standing, but for the attrition caused by Harvard’s policy. This seems akin to murdering the victim to avoid liability for future medical expenses.
Of course, the analogy isn’t great, since there is no assurance that the sororities would have members in the absence of the policy (hey, sometimes people just decide not to join. It happens), and there was nothing to preclude women from joining despite the policy. After all, if one feels strongly enough, is it not proper to act upon it and suffer the consequences?
The problem isn’t that Judge Gordon dismissed the claims of the sororities. He had no real option, given that there was no one to be damaged. Law can be harsh that way. The problem is that Harvard may well have been able to take advantage of its victims and eliminate the best emotional argument against its policy.
Let’s face it, there won’t be many protests from the passionate students against the elimination of fraternities and Finals Clubs, even if they were institutions at the second best engineering school on Mass Ave. So while the ruling may be sound, and the action will proceed against Harvard, as well it should, this was a significant victory for the college and a significant loss for what is likely its victims.
Harvard never really wanted to eliminate sororities from its campus. The rationalization for their existence is entirely different from the awful men-only clubs, since everyone know women deserve a place of sisterhood, as opposed to men, whose Patriarchy clubs are only used to train rapists, get women too drunk to consent and exclude the riff raff. But since it was obvious that failure to cover all same-sex clubs would doom their woke efforts for diversity and inclusion, sororities had to go. And they did.