Policy on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (USGSOs)

Policy No Longer Enforced

Effective June 29, 2020, the policy on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations is no longer being enforced. Read the announcement from Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow here. Read a message from Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana here.

Guiding Philosophy

Harvard College seeks to build a community where every student can thrive, and it does so on the foundation of a set of shared values including belonging, inclusion, and non-discrimination. The policy on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (USGSO) is designed to dedicate resources to those organizations that are advancing principles of inclusivity, while offering them supportive pathways as they transform into more inclusive organizations.

In accordance with the College’s philosophy and values, and for more than a century, Harvard has not had a Greek-life system on campus. As President Faust and the Harvard Corporation said in December of 2017, it is the expressed expectation of this community that Harvard should not become a Greek school. Harvard will not change its commitment to non-discrimination and educational philosophy for outside organizations that are not aligned with our long-standing mission.

The Policy

Students matriculating in the fall of 2017 and thereafter who become members of Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (USGSO) will not be eligible to hold leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams. In addition, such students will not be eligible for fellowships administered by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. This policy does not apply to students who matriculated prior to fall 2017.

Affected Organizations

The Policy applies to organizations that are single-gender; and that have a primarily social mission; and that are formally organized (with by-laws and a governing structure); and that are primarily composed of Harvard students. As we have publicly stated before, the Policy does not apply to organizations that are either recognized by Harvard College or chartered at Harvard College or any other higher education institution.

Membership

Students are considered members of a USGSO if they have belonged to a USGSO within one calendar year of their becoming a leader or captain or the submission of a fellowship application.

Leadership Positions

The policy shall apply to leadership positions in all Independent Student Organizations (ISO)College-affiliated Sponsored Student Organizations (SSO), student-comprised groups affiliated with College offices (such as Pre-orientation programs), and PBHA programs. Leadership positions include officers and board members of the organization, ordinarily spelled out in a group’s constitution. In a letter to students in March 2017, Dean Khurana shared that this policy does not apply to the Harvard Crimson or the Undergraduate Council.

The policy shall apply to varsity sports. Varsity team captains are chosen democratically by their peers without the participation of coaches, though Athletics staff may be present to ensure students understand the election process. In line with this process, the OSL will partner with Athletics to ensure that, at the time of elections, student-athletes are aware of the current policy as it pertains to team captains.

Fellowships

Following the spirit of the recommendations proposed by the Implementation Committee Final Report and accepted by the Danoff Dean of Harvard College, the fellowships included in this policy will include all fellowships administered by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. A full list of the fellowships to which this policy currently applies can be found on the website of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships.

Violations of the USGSO Policy/Enforcement

The Policy was incorporated into the Handbook for Students through the Faculty's regular process of reviewing and updating The Handbook language.

As is stated in the policy, a student who belongs to a USGSO is not eligible for certain leadership positions or fellowship support.  Therefore, if a student is found to be in a USGSO while also holding a leadership position in a recognized organization or serving as a captain, or while under consideration for a fellowship, the student will need to give up the leadership position or fellowship support. The College’s usual processes concerning candor with Harvard administrators apply in this area as in all other areas of student life.  Therefore, if a student is found to be lying to an administrator or to be misrepresenting their membership status, that student will be subject to standard disciplinary proceedings as currently described in the Handbook. Policy violations relating to social misconduct and misrepresentation of membership status are reviewed by the Administrative Board.

National Organizations

The student experience at Harvard is a unique one, guided by our distinctive residential liberal-arts educational mission. The announcement of the USGSO policy by President Faust and the Harvard Corporation reinforces the long-standing expectation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that the Harvard undergraduate experience should be shaped by the relationship between Harvard students, faculty, and staff. To this end, Harvard College has long-held that fraternities, sororities, and other national organizations should not have a role in shaping our student extracurricular experience. The College is eager to discuss resources available to student-leaders of such organizations who wish to transition the governance of their unrecognized groups to ones which are gender inclusive and locally autonomous.

Women’s Organizations

We are committed to treating all organizations that are moving towards gender-inclusivity fairly and to offering them Harvard College resources and assistance regardless of gender. As Dean Khurana noted in an open letter in May 2016, Harvard has a long and complex history of grappling with gender discrimination. The College is deeply committed to gender equity, inclusion, and non-discrimination and to advance women's full participation in Harvard's academic and extracurricular life. To that end, we welcome all organizations, and especially those whose membership is currently restricted to women, to partner with us. The staff within the Harvard College Women's Center and staff members in the Dean of Students Office will partner with groups wishing to transition from having a women’s exclusive membership while maintaining a women’s-focused mission.

Media Inquiries

For media inquiries, please contact Rachael Dane at rachael_dane@harvard.edu.