Free Assembly

Beginning with the freshman class that enters in fall 2017, Harvard University students will no longer be allowed to hold leadership positions in campus groups while also maintaining membership in the exclusive, single-gender final clubs that dominate the school’s social scene.


The policy barring students from holding leadership positions in official groups while being members of what the school calls “unrecognized, single-gender social organizations,” also extends to the younger fraternities and sororities.  Students will also not receive the dean’s endorsements for elite scholarships and fellowships if they’re found to be members of the groups.

Whatever happened to freedom of association?  It’s true enough that Harvard is a private institution, but as the Supreme Court has held about private enterprises on a number of occasions vis-à-vis other venues, it has enough of a public institution characteristic—accepting a broad reach of students, just as any other private business, a store for instance, accepts a broad reach of customers—that it needs to act like one here.

It’s also true enough that the 1st Amendment’s right of the people peaceably to assemble only enjoins the Federal government.  However, the principle is no less valid in its applicability to a university.

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