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Suffolk judge denies Harvard motion to toss sororities’ legal challenge

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has rejected Harvard College’s argument to toss a lawsuit challenging a school policy on single-gender clubs.

The Jan. 9 order from Judge Linda E. Giles, denied Harvard’s motion to dismiss, meaning the suit will proceed.

The policy at the heart of the case barred students who were members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations, like fraternities, sororities, or all-male final clubs, from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations and athletic teams and from receiving college administered fellowships, according to Giles’ order.

In 2018, groups filed a pair of lawsuits at the state and federal levels challenging the Harvard policy. Last August, a judge ruled that a suit filed by national sororities and fraternities that challenged the Harvard policy on single-gender clubs could proceed. The federal judge denied a motion filed by Harvard to dismiss the suit completely, but agreed to dismiss three plaintiffs.


Now, the state suit will also move forward.

In the state lawsuit, sorority organizations had alleged that Harvard had violated state civil rights law by interfering with their freedom of association and by discriminating against their members on the basis of sex. Harvard countered that the plaintiffs failed to allege “sufficient facts to support each of their claims.”

“Yet again, a court has thoroughly rejected Harvard’s arguments and concluded that there’s more than sufficient evidence that Harvard interfered with the constitutionally protected rights of its female students,” said Emma Quinn-Judge, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, in a statement.

Rachael Dane, a Harvard spokeswoman, called the Giles’ decision “disappointing” in a statement.

“All students should have the opportunity to fully participate in the Harvard College experience,” she said. “While this decision is disappointing, it says nothing about the ultimate merits of the case. We’re confident that once the entire story is heard, the court will allow Harvard to continue fighting discrimination on our campus in all of its forms.”


Danny McDonald can be reached at Follow him @Danny__McDonald.