Harvard University’s decision to penalize students who join single-sex clubs off campus violates the most basic principles of freedom of association and marks a vast overreach by Harvard’s administration. Students who opt for these kinds of associations have done nothing to deserve exclusion from leadership positions. Indeed, there is a slippery slope from discrimination based on association to discrimination based on political, social, or even religious beliefs.
In attempting to regulate the decisions of students—in unaffiliated outside organizations—Harvard engages in what amounts to little more than arrogant and self-righteous social engineering.
We concur with the student-government leaders who sadly manifest more intelligence than those who seek to regulate them: “Vetting of elected members of student government based on affiliation in certain groups is detrimental, and fundamentally opposed, to the vivacity of the democratic process.”
How shameful that the Corporation, which oversees the university, remains quiet as the administration ignores the fundamental value of freedom of association and engages in the misguided micromanagement of students’ lives, with little more than politically correct speculation about the problem. Indeed, pointing the finger at these single-sex clubs—with a miniscule membership—unfairly discriminates, when the problem is arguably campus-wide.
The fact remains that there is one simple and clear resolution to the plague of criminal sexual assault on campus—arrest and prosecution—not the demonization of freedom of association. Harvard, is that too much to ask?
Anne Neal is a 1977 graduate of Harvard College and a 1980 graduate of Harvard Law School and President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.