The symbolism could not be more striking: Harvard College, an institution founded for men by men has, for the first time in its history, banned men. For six hours every week, only women will be allowed in one of the university's three major gyms--a new policy implemented in response to a request by female Muslim students, who were uncomfortable exercising around men.
Since announcing the new policy, the university has been besieged by vitriolic criticism, with some commentators characterizing the decision as "appeasement" and "capitulation" to the demands of "radical Islam." One blogger, in a post entitled "Slouching toward Constantinople," compared the decision to the Turkish conquest of that city in 1453. One commentator called it Harvard's "Islamofascist gym." Even Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan lamented the onslaught of "Sharia at Harvard."
Though these reactions are clearly alarmist, the decision raises significant questions about how far universities must bend to accommodate religious observance, and the extent to which political correctness is beginning to overshadow other liberal values on American campuses.