Harvard is about to get a lot less exclusive.
Earlier this month, a faculty committee recommended that the university ban what it called “pernicious” social clubs — including fraternities, sororities and “final clubs” — stating that they are hotbeds for discrimination and elitism and that their influence on campus life “is impossible to escape.”
Under such a ban, which would go into effect in fall 2018, any undergraduate found participating in these organizations would be expelled or suspended — all to uphold “the importance of inclusion and belonging,” the committee wrote in a 22-page report.
Never mind that Harvard isn’t exactly known for inclusion: The college accepted a whopping 5.2 percent of applicants for its incoming 2021 class.
The ban would affect groups including the two-century-old Hasty Pudding Club — which is now co-ed and whose alumni include President John Adams, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and William Randolph Hearst — as well as the all-female final club the Bee, founded in 1991.
But the main target of the administration’s ire seems to be the storied, all-male final clubs, where amenities can include a ventilated smoking room (Fox Club) or a squash court and sauna (Delphic Club), and stewards guard the doors of million-dollar Harvard Square mansions during raucous parties.
The rosters are as impressive as the grounds: The Fly has counted President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jared Kushner as members. John F. Kennedy was a member of the (then-all-male) Spee Club, while Theodore Roosevelt was in the Porcellian Club.
Current students and prominent alumni of the organizations are in an uproar over the proposed ban — lawyering up and even hiring public-relations firms, as the Porcellian did with Rubenstein Associates last year.
“The idea that Harvard is now going to exercise the same sort of control over its student body as a strictly run middle school is deeply offensive,” declared Fly Club Graduate President Richard Porteus Jr., Class of ’78.
“It should not be up to the dean and dean alone to decide when Harvard undergraduates have recess, with whom, for how long and doing what.”
‘The idea that Harvard is now going to exercise the same sort of control over its student body as a strictly run middle school is deeply offensive.’
– Richard Porteus Jr., Class of ’78
The administration’s latest stance is a more draconian version of the edict revealed last spring, in which Dean Rakesh Khurana and President Drew Faust said they would strip members of single-gender, unrecognized clubs of any on-campus leadership positions and refuse to nominate them for academic awards, including Rhodes scholarships, starting with the Class of 2021.
Originally, the administration justified its stance by claiming that male-only clubs were nefarious because of the number of sexual assaults that took place there. But when stats proved otherwise, they switched to a fight against gender discrimination, said Harvard professor Harry Lewis, who was dean of Harvard College from 1995 to 2003 and teaches computer science at the school.