The United States Office of Education will investigate claims of racial discrimination in Harvard final clubs or other organizations under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act if a formal complaint is made to the Office, a spokesman for Commissioner of Education Francis G. Keppel '38 said last week.
University officials have admitted in the past that Final Clubs do discriminate: In November 1963, Dean Watson said in a Harvard Crimson interview: "Of course some of the final clubs discriminate and we abhor the practice; but we cannot coerce them into accepting members regardless of race. This has never been our policy."
As far as can be determined, there has never been a Negro in a Harvard final club.
Last month, in a reply to a letter from Senator Lee Metcalf (D-Mont.), Keppel said that a fraternity's refusal to admit a Negro because of his race could be grounds for cutting off federal funds to a University. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act empowers the Federal Government to withhold funds from recipients who practice racial discrimination.
Metcalf's letter was motivated by Sigma Chi's suspension of its Stanford chapter after the California group proposed the admission of a Negro to the fraternity. Metcalf was a member of the Stanford chapter of Sigma Chi.
Harvard Has Complied
As a condition for receiving federal funds, Harvard has signed an assurance of compliance with the Civil Rights Act. "We have been assured by Harvard that it has complied," said John Naisbitt, a spokesman for Keppel. "We have continued to act on this fact. It is the only thing we can do unless a complaint is filed," he explained.
If the Office of Education does receive a complaint, he said, "we try to discover whether or not the entity is part of the University, whether it does discriminate, and what the University is going to do about it."
Were the first two conditions fulfilled and a university to refuse to alter the situation, the Office of Education would "initiate the process as outlined in Title VI," he continued. The provision calls for a series of hearings before any cutoff occurs.
Membership in the 10 final clubs is by invitation. Students recommended by club members are invited to a series of punches and dinner parties in the fall of their sophomore year. If they are black-balled by a certain number of members during this "punching" period, they are simply not invited to any more club functions.
Another organization which might be susceptible to charges of discrimination is the Association of African and Afro-American Students, which is composed exclusively of Negroes.
The AAAAS, which in its original charter specifically limited membership to Negro Africans and Americans, now provides that "membership in the Association shall be open to Harvard and Radcliffe students and shall be by invitation.