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Harvard Asks 2 Courts To Dismiss Lawsuits By Single-Sex Clubs

Students walk in and out of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Students walk in and out of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Harvard University on Friday asked a federal court and a state court to dismiss two lawsuits by members of final clubs and fraternities and sororities.

"Harvard College’s policy on unrecognized single-gender social organizations does not discriminate against any undergraduate student, but rather is a measured and lawful policy that treats all students equally," said Harvard College spokesperson Rachael Dane in a emailed statement.

Harvard's sanction targets members of off-campus same-sex organizations. It prohibits them from holding positions of leadership on campus. It also prevents them from applying for prestigious scholarships, such as the Rhodes Scholarship.

Legal documents show Harvard is trying to have the lawsuits thrown out. The school has argued it does not discriminate on the basis of sex because it treats all-male and all-female groups equally.

Sororities have argued that because more women than men belonged to single-sex social organizations before the ban went into effect two years ago, women are affected more than men.

And the fraternities and members of the all-male final clubs have argued that because their organizations are targeted because they are all-male, Harvard is discriminating on the basis of sex.

Harvard said no students have been harmed because the policies were announced in 2016 and only apply to students who enrolled in 2017. It argued that those students applied to Harvard knowing full well what its policies would be.

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Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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