Harvard's single-sex social clubs are fighting for survival

All-male clubs have been part of Harvard University's culture for more than two centuries, but the school is now trying to discourage participation in all single-gender clubs, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

More than 400 women protested against the university policy in Harvard Yard Monday.

"Female spaces are crucial sources of our empowerment," chanted one student protester, Caroline Tervo.

"They feel like their voices haven't really been heard in the decision the university made Friday," she said. "I think there is something to be said for single-sex organizations."

Harvard's undergraduate dean is targeting what the school calls "discriminatory membership policies." Starting in 2017, members of "unrecognized single-gender social organizations... will not be eligible to hold leadership positions in recognized student organizations or athletic teams" and "will not... receive endorsement letters... for fellowships."

Harvard officially broke ties with its so-called final clubs in 1984 after all of the groups refused to admit women.

Tervo said her membership in a women's-only social club has been crucial to her development.

"It really breaks my heart that that opportunity would not be available to women that are going to be here in two years," she said.

Last fall, two all-male final clubs opened their doors to women.

"There's not a real social benefit for everyone when certain people are able to enter these spaces and other people are left outside," said student Brianna Suslovic.

Two months ago, a Harvard sexual assault task force report said "female Harvard College students participating in final club activities are more likely to be sexually assaulted than participants in any other of the student organizations."

Class of '78 and graduate president Rick Porteus is a member for life of the all-male Fly Club, and said each group has to be selective.

"I think the target all along has been the well-established men's clubs. And unfortunately and unconscionably, collateral damage has included the women's clubs as well as the sororities and the fraternities," Porteus said.