Harvard Reverses Blacklist of Single-Sex Student Organizations Following Bostock Ruling

Harvard University, November 16, 2012 (Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)

Harvard has announced it will lift a blacklist on unrecognized single-sex student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County.

That ruling decided that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay or transgender employees from discrimination due to their sexual orientation. Harvard in 2016 instituted a blacklist of some single-sex student organizations by denying scholarships and other opportunities to members of those organizations.

The blacklist “was adopted for the purpose of counteracting overt discrimination on the basis of sex—specifically, the exclusion of Harvard College students from social organizations because of their gender,” Bacow wrote in a statement on Monday. However, fraternities and sororities subsequently brought a lawsuit against the university in the U.S. District Court in Boston.

“The court accepted the plaintiffs’ legal theory that the policy, although adopted to counteract discrimination based on sex, is itself an instance of discrimination based on sex,” Bacow continued. “In reaching this view, Judge [Nathaniel] Gorton relied heavily on the reasoning in one of the appellate decisions (Zarda v. Altitude Express) that was affirmed by the Supreme Court [in Bostock]. It now seems clear that Judge Gorton would ultimately grant judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor in the pending lawsuit.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a campus advocacy group, applauded the move to end the blacklist.

“Our sincere hope is that other universities will look to Harvard’s abject failure to implement this misguided policy, and think twice before launching a similar attack on their students’ fundamental rights,” FIRE executive assistant Ryne Weiss said in a statement.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.