Harvard-Greek life ban is the opposite of diversity: Strobl

By Alex Swisher Politics FOXBusiness

Hold colleges accountable for free speech?

National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom Grant Strobl on free speech on college campuses and Harvard's proposed frat ban.

LSA senior Grant Strobl, national chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, told FOX Business’s Stuart Varney on Friday that the same people who are calling for diversity and inclusion on campus are ignoring diversity of ideas.

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“Students on these campuses should have the opportunity to listen to different ideas, and that’s what these people at Harvard are missing,” he said.

Strobl was referring to a new proposal from a faculty committee at Harvard University that aims to ban all fraternities, sororities and single gender social clubs beginning in the fall of 2018. According to the committee’s 22-page report that was released this week, the proposed ban is an effort to eliminate clubs that have had “a pernicious influence on undergraduate life”.

"In order to move beyond the gendered and exclusive club system that has persisted -- and even expanded -- over time, a new paradigm is needed," the committee wrote, "one that is rooted in an appreciation of diversity, commitment to inclusivity and positive contributions to the social experience for all students."

Harvard has been known for its exclusive secret all-male social clubs, known as “final clubs”. These clubs have been around for decades, even centuries. One club, the Porcellian Club, dates back to the 18th century and counts President Theodore Roosevelt among its past members. Harvard does not officially recognize any fraternity or sorority, but there are several local chapters open to students.

Strobl commented that his experience in Greek life has only been positive.

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“I’m actually involved in Greek life at the University of Michigan, and there’s no more inclusive of a group. There’s tons of different fraternities and sororities that include all sorts of people,” he said.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon Massachusetts Gamma Chapter posted a statement on its Facebook page Wednesday saying the committee "has chosen to dismiss the concerns" of many Harvard College students who've benefited from membership in social organizations. The club noted that they are welcoming to students from all walks of life, and provide financial aid to students who cannot afford membership fees.

Last year, Harvard banned members of single-gender groups from serving as sports captains or leaders of other campus groups. After receiving push back from students, a committee was created in March to re-examine the rules.

"Freedom of association and speech are paramount for the intellectual and spiritual growth of students," Heather Kirk, spokeswoman for the North-American Interfraternity Conference, said in a statement. "We urge Harvard to focus on creating a culture of health and safety on campus that also respects students' rights." The group represents three of Harvard’s fraternities.

Strobl told FBN that the state of Michigan has proposed two bills that would ensure that students would be required to have free speech training during their freshman orientation sessions, and that students would not be shielded from hearing ideas that they do not agree with.

“There is no better time to hold our universities accountable for free speech,” he said.

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The Harvard committee says the proposed ban comes as a preventive measure in the wake of stories like the death of 19-year-old Pennsylvania State University student Tim Piazza.  Piazza died due to injuries sustained during a fraternity hazing incident. The university has since created stricter rules.

Other schools such as Williams College in Massachusetts and Bowdoin College in Maine have instituted bans on fraternities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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