Commenter Froginthewell says:
I don’t understand – Harvard is a private university, right? And this controversy is about propriety and not rights?
Well, yes. Harvard is a private university, but in this non-libertarian world, they are subject to various anti-discrimination laws which may or may not mandate or prohibit reserving a few hours for women in their gym. I am not aware of, and I am not really very interested in the details of those laws, but start from The Volokh Conspiracy if you are interested.
Secondly, my point was a defence of the libertarian position, which starts from the presumption that owners should be broadly free (legally) to do what they wish within their property. If you agree with the libertarian position, then what you are saying makes sense. We can agree that Harvard should be legally free to do what it did, and then debate the propriety of that decision. Those libertarians who think that Harvard’s decision was improper would still be free to protest that decision through non-violent demostrations, signature campaigns or boycotts.
But my argument, naturally enough, was not directed at those who agree with me. It was directed at those who do not hold the libertarian position, which means that they are open to enforcing their sense of propriety through legislation, i.e. it was directed at precisely those who do not agree with the distinction that Froginthewell’s comment is drawing. I am not aware of just how many people fit that definition, but I am confident that the proportion is high enough that I can say that I was not attacking a strawman.
Finally, it so happens that I do not agree with the view that this issue is about propriety. I think that this is, or ought to be, a pragmatic decision, based on costs and benefits, best made at the local level on a case-by-case basis. Having a law for this is bad, but even making this into an issue of “propriety” is unwise. There is no need to bring out the heavy artillery of religious freedom, “discrimination”, women’s rights, etc. I was pointing out that this libertarian “dogmatism” on property rights is what enables us to be non-dogmatic about everything else, while those who do not agree with our dogma have no choice but to turn every issue into one of law or propriety.