Greek Life Poised To Plummet At Harvard After Sanctions

Harvard’s Widener Library

Following a ban at Harvard University on single-sex club members from taking on leadership roles in any student clubs or sport teams, The Harvard Crimson, the university’s daily student newspaper, reported earlier this month that interest in sororities has dropped by almost 60% this semester.

Spring 2018 is the first semester where the penalties for club members have taken effect after the ban was finalized last December. In addition to not being allowed to take on student leadership roles, students who choose to join the clubs also will not be recommended for elite academic scholarships, such as the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

Some Harvard club chapters such as Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Alpha Phi have announced that they plan to continue recruiting only females in spite of the penalties their members will face. The hashtags #HearHerHarvard was coined to show support for women who have been stripped of their leadership opportunities and scholarships, and women are sharing stories of the effects of being a sorority member under the hashtag #withoutmysorority.


In spring 2017, The Crimson reported that a record-breaking 286 women had registered their interests with sororities. But with the sanctions in place, students seem to be choosing other avenues: varsity sports, student groups, and the pursuit of scholarships that former U.S. and global leaders have received over club memberships.

“Harvard’s known for an extremely active Greek life, and it’s not an easy choice to make deciding between joining a second family and chances to step ahead in school,” says first-year student Nichol Hoffman, who chose not to rush. “I have friends that chose the clubs, but most of us are staying out. No one knows how this will turn out, we’ll just have to see in a couple of years who’s lost what opportunities.”

While the Cambridge-Area Panhellenic Council usually releases data on student participation in sorority recruitment because students must attend a recruitment event and register with the Council before they can rush a club, they wrote in an email to The Crimson that they would not be doing so this year “out of respect for the process.”

The student paper, however, did obtain documents indicating that approximately 100 students registered to attend the Council’s first recruitment event. In 2016, about 280 students registered for sorority recruitment, indicating a growing interest in Greek life.


Also in January this year, Harvard’s chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, the third sorority to arrive at Harvard, announced that it would go co-ed as “The Fleur-de-Lis.” While it will “remain committed to being a female-focused group,” the club will accept men to ensure it is “welcoming and accessible” to all students. Other Harvard clubs that have gone co-ed include male-only fraternities Kappa Sigma and Alpha Epsilon Phi who renamed to KS and Aleph after separating from their national organizations.  

As pressures to go co-ed continue to build on campus, Hollywood star Mila Kunis, best known from the 2010 movie “Black Swan,” was named Woman of the Year by the Harvard Hasty Pudding Theatricals club. The 200-year-old club is the nation’s oldest collegiate theatrical organization and traditionally auditions for men to dress in drag for women’s roles that have been called sexist. But following pressure from Ukraine-born Kunis, club President Andrew Farkas announced earlier this year that the institute would begin considering women for roles starting in fall 2018.  

Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana said the club’s decision to begin casting women is the right move at the “right time.” The university announced in December last year that it will release information on how it plans to enforce the sanctions on fraternities and sororities early this year.