Harvard University will prohibit members of single-sex clubs, fraternities and sororities, from serving in leadership roles beginning in the fall of 2017 in an effort to discourage sexual discrimination on campus, officials said on Friday.
The Ivy League school has long been trying to stamp out single-sex clubs, which it stopped formally recognizing in 1984, though the groups known as “final clubs” as well as some fraternities and sororities have held their place on its Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus.
The new rules are intended to end longstanding practices of exclusion at the elite university, whose alumni are plentiful in high-level positions in U.S. business and politics.
“Students will decide for themselves whether to engage with these organizations, as members or otherwise,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said in an open letter on Friday.
“But just as students have choice, so too the college must determine for itself the structure of activities that it funds or endorses,” said Faust, Harvard’s first female president since its founding in 1636.
The rules would also prohibit members of the single-sex clubs, which operate with a degree of secrecy, from serving as captains of sports teams, as leaders of officially recognized student clubs or from receiving endorsement letters from college deans.
The move comes at a time of intense awareness of the frequency of sex assaults on college campuses, a problem that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has described as an “epidemic.” The U.S. Department of Education is investigating more than 100 colleges and universities to see if they violated federal law by inadequately investigating claims of sex assaults.
Advocates for the same-sex clubs, which have their roots in all-male clubs but also include some all-female organizations, have challenged the idea that forcing them to admit members of both genders would reduce incidents of sex assault.