Just three days before Harvard announced its plans to cut ties with unrecognized single-gender organizations last week, the Yale College Council released a report recommending that the University formalize its relationship with Greek organizations and better incorporate them into the existing administrative framework.

Last Friday, Harvard University President Drew Faust wrote in a college-wide email that, beginning with the class of 2021, members of single-gender organizations — including final clubs, fraternities and sororities — will no longer be able to captain sports teams or assume leadership positions in registered student organizations. Additionally, Harvard will not endorse these individuals for top scholarships such as the Rhodes and Marshall.

According to Faust’s email, the decision to sanction single-gender organizations stems from “discriminatory membership policies” that undermine Harvard’s values and that perpetuate all-male spaces and power imbalances. But in New Haven, as Yale similarly seeks to address increased scrutiny of Greek life and sexual misconduct, administrators seem to be moving toward greater oversight of single-gender organizations, rather than distancing themselves from them. Following an allegedly “white girls only” Halloween party at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity last fall, students and administrators have agreed that a stronger connection between Yale and its sororities and fraternities will improve the experience for the whole community.

A report published by the Yale College Council Task Force on Greek Life on May 3 recommended, among other things, that the University formalize its relationship with Greek organizations and require them to register as official student groups. It also suggested the formation of a Greek Council, which would include representatives from each sorority and fraternity who would meet regularly with Yale College administrators.

“Coming up with productive ways for Yale to formalize its relationship with Greek life was one of the main focuses of our recommendations,” said Skyler Inman ’17, director of the YCC Task Force on Greek Life and president of Yale’s chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority. “A formalized relationship will not only help maintain a line of accountability and transparency between Greek organizations and the administration, but it will [also] encourage University policies that allow for proactive management of an inclusive, safe system, rather than reactive responses to crises after they’ve already arisen.”

Inman added that members of these organizations are “eager” to take part in conversations about how to make Greek life a more positive presence on campus. There is a level of responsibility and ownership that accompanies Greek life, Inman said.

All four Panhellenic sororities — Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Phi — have already registered as official student organizations last semester after a community discussion, and Inman said she hopes that fraternities will soon follow suit.

Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell Howard said the announcement from Cambridge was “quite surprising” and represents a powerful statement from Harvard administrators about the kind of community they want to build. But at Yale, Howard said the administration is approaching the subject from another angle.

“Yale is obviously in a different place in relation to single-sex organizations,” Howard said. “I believe that there is an opportunity to work with our Greek organizations to better support the experience students have who are involved in them, and for those students who visit and socialize there.”

Howard added that Yale’s organizations — Greek and beyond — could benefit from organizational support, leadership development and risk management training provided by the Yale College Dean’s Office. He emphasized that the goal is to ensure that Yale can support all of its student organizations and that events hosted by student groups are safe and welcoming to the entire community.

Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar did not return interview requests. YCC President Joe English ’17 deferred requests for comment to Inman.

“Given the Task Force’s emphasis on exploring ways that Yale’s Greek system can meet the evolving needs of Yale’s diverse community, it makes sense that the Task Force did not examine or recommend measures that seek to get rid of Greek life altogether,” said Peter Hwang ’18, the incoming YCC task force director and incoming president of the Sigma Chi fraternity, who participated in the Greek life task force.

Considering sororities that foster communities for women, Hwang said gendered spaces can be safer spaces.

Hwang added that he wonders if the lack of cultural-interest Greek organizations on Harvard’s campus might have impacted the administration’s perspective on the role that Greek life can play to promote communities that have been historically marginalized on Ivy League campuses. At Yale, according to the Greek life task force, two Latina-based multicultural sororities and one Latino-based fraternity are currently active.

Inman also said the nature of the problem at Yale is different from that at Harvard. The Harvard administration is mainly trying to address issues that relate to its six all-male finals clubs, which Inman said have been criticized for their exclusionary policies and ties to high rates of sexual misconduct. Finals clubs are more similar to secret societies than Greek organizations, Inman explained, but many people have commented that fraternities and sororities were included as part of the new Harvard policy as a matter of political necessity.

“If the policy is simply a struggle for power between [Harvard] and the final clubs, that’s one thing, and I’m sure that if that’s the case then some groups will be able to survive as ‘official’ student organizations,” Inman said. “But if it’s an attempt to ‘fix’ the university and make it more inclusive, I think [Harvard’s recent announcement] is a band-aid solution that ignores what are probably many structural problems that contribute to sexual assault and discrimination on their campus.”

In the end, Inman said, Yale and Harvard both want to establish inclusive and positive environments on campus for all of their students, and both have “lots of room” for improvements.

  • colleenclark

    A “natural” experiment, two similar universities making different decisions. How long will it take each to evaluate their different paths and determine which improved student life overall?
    Radcliffe/Harvard ’64

  • ShadrachSmith

    The academic war on the Y chromosome isn’t happening in a vacuum. This is just a local manifestation of a D political meme about permissible v punishable sexual conduct. Where is the line in the sand?

    The difference between permissible and punishable sex is a line in the sand drawn by cultural norms. Some lady named Murphy says America’s line is in the wrong place because, “There’s a relatively binary way of thinking in a lot of the current statutes, which is that it’s either rape, which is the worst thing it could be, a first-degree felony, and that’s it, throw the book at the person—or it’s not rape, and there’s no harm. We actually think there’s more sensitivity there.”

    The lady has a point. Her point matters as an author of the new recommendation to revise sexual assault law in the American Law Institute’s (ALI) Model Penal Code she is changing the line in the sand. Expect California to adopt this revision, soon. That said, Murphy’s solution may well be to empower every woman to put most any man in jail with a simple j’accuse. No culture has previously tried that rule for obvious reasons. Anybody got a link to her text?

  • Muhammad Ali Kamal

    Here is according to get at Yale and Harvard’s Greek Organizations on their campus.

  • Muhammad Ali Kamal

    Here is more contribute all about Yale and Harvard’s Greek organization on their campus.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Speaking of students speaking to administrators. Who are these guys? Dartmouth’s senior student staff wrote an amazing letter to the Dartmouth Administration. University administrators are stealing our money, our autonomy, and our dignity. Please stop.

    We therefore envision a College that has stripped away unnecessary deans, administrators, and support offices. We envision a College where students are granted the liberty to lead their lives as they please and enjoy a true freedom to speak their minds. We envision a College that has recommitted itself to its roots in rigorous and stimulating undergraduate education. Achieving all of this will not be easy, as Dartmouth must engage in some painful soul-searching so that it can begin eliminating staff and administrative positions not central to the academic mission of the College. Doing so will require both time and moral courage, but the College will benefit from this examination of priorities by rediscovering its institutional spirit. – THE DARTMOUTH SENIOR STAFF May 17, 2016

    America’s been waiting for some heroes to emerge from the mean streets of factional tyranny in higher education. This might be them 🙂

    • ldffly

      Very well said. I am startled.

  • ronnymont

    You win, Yale. Harvard alum here, but I officially concede defeat. Your H-Y tailgates were always better, and now your social scene beats ours for the rest of eternity. Harvard has received my last dollar, and my kids won’t be going there. Congrats.