Lawsuits Filed Against Harvard Over Social Group Sanctions


captured by Francesca Cornero




This Monday, December 3, two lawsuits were filed alleging that Harvard’s sanctions against single-gender social organizations violate sex-based discrimination laws on the federal and state level.


The first lawsuit, filed by two Greek organizations in Massachusetts court, alleges that Harvard’s sanctions violate the Civil Rights Act and Massachusetts Constitution and is demanding that Harvard discontinue the policy and pay reparations for what money they believe they have lost due to the penalties created by the sanctions. The second lawsuit, filed in federal court by five separate sororities and fraternities and three unnamed Harvard students who are members of all-male social organizations, alleges that University sanctions violate Title IX—the federal anti-sex discrimination law—and the US Constitution.


The sanctions in question were originally devised in May 2016 under former President Drew Faust’s administration and were meant to discourage the prevalence of single-gender social organizations in the University’s social spaces, which University officials have argued promote exclusivity. The policy, which was set to be applied to the Class of 2021 and following years, restricts members of single-gender social organizations from leadership positions in varsity sports, recognized student organizations, or from receiving College endorsements for fellowships.


Plaintiffs in the two lawsuits are alleging that Harvard’s sanctions are discriminatory because they punish students for wanting to associate with other individuals of the same sex and that they perpetuate the view that male social organizations are likely to commit acts of bigotry and sexual violence. Plaintiffs also allege that Harvard’s policies promote an “anti-male bias” that pairs all-male social organizations with primarily negative characteristics.


The University has yet to respond to the lawsuits.


Segan Helle ( is a news writer interested in campus and domestic politics.