Stefanik backs bill to protect college fraternities, sororities

Rep. Elise Stefanik gives a victory speech on election night, Nov. 3, 2020, at the Queensbury Hotel in Glens Falls. (Provided photo — Christopher Lenney, Watertown Daily Times)

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, is championing the right for fraternities and sororities to continue to be part of the social fabric at colleges and universities.

“I am proud to lead the effort to protect same-sex organizations in college campuses so they can continue to thrive and support our next generation of leaders,” Stefanik said in a news release last month, when she introduced legislation to preserve the “right to free assembly” of single-sex campus organizations including fraternities and sororities.

The legislation — HR 7488 — would prohibit colleges from discriminating against social organizations merely because membership is limited to one gender; would prohibit colleges from imposing restrictions or penalties on member or prospective members of single-sex social organizations; and would prohibit college from having rules that are exclusive to single-sex organizations.

“If a student is old enough to borrow six figures to go to college, they are responsible enough to make choices about the organizations they will join while in school,” said Kevin O’Neill, a lawyer who represents the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, which has contributed $10,000 to Stefanik’s re-election campaign.

The most well known of these, Harvard University, Stefanik’s alma mater, was forced through a lawsuit to rescind its policy, he said.

“Lots of schools nationwide have created byzantine restrictions on a student to join the organizations of their choice, at the time of their choosing, but are not applying those restrictions uniformly across all teams, clubs and organizations,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said the legislation is not necessary.

“This legislation seems like a solution in search of a problem and only serves to inflame the culture wars,” he said, in a statement. “I’m not aware of this being an issue for any colleges or universities in the Capital Region.”


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