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Fraternities, Sororities And Students Sue Harvard Over Single-Sex Group Rule

Harvard students walk by as someone enters the Fly Club, one of the exclusive final clubs at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
Harvard students walk by as someone enters the Fly Club, one of the exclusive final clubs at Harvard University. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Three anonymous Harvard students, a Harvard sorority and four national fraternities and sororities filed a lawsuit Monday against Harvard College.

They claim the college's 2016 decision to forbid members of single-sex organizations from assuming leadership positions on campus discriminates against those students.

The plaintiffs assert the controversial rule amounts to threats and intimidation meant to scare students from joining same-sex organizations. The school also does not allow students in those groups to apply for prestigious fellowships, including the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships. Many of those groups, though not banned, turned co-ed after the rule went into effect.

Harvard officials have not yet issued a comment on the lawsuit.

Rebecca Ramos, president of the Delta Gamma sorority at Harvard, said she benefited from the support of her sorority sisters, and her younger sister joined the sorority.

"But now, my sister cannot benefit from that support, because Harvard stole it away from her, and from thousands of future Harvard women," Ramos said at a press conference in Cambridge.

The sororities claim they provided spaces for women to network away from men.

"Harvard has erased these empowering spaces," said Laura Doerre, former president of Kappa Alpha Theta, one of the national sororities suing Harvard.

Ramos said current sorority members have suffered in ways beyond not being allowed to hold leadership positions in campus organizations or to apply for prestigious scholarships and fellowships.

"Students have been plagued by fear as they've been asked in fellowships interviews, law school interviews, and more, about their agreement with the policy," she said.

Harvard implemented the policy in an attempt to curb sexual assaults at parties at all-male final clubs.

The final clubs are not suing. Four of them are instead lobbying Congress to withhold federal funds from Harvard.

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Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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