Club's Parties Under Scrutiny In S
Pi Eta Speakers Associates
It's not easy being a member of the Pi Eta Speakers Association, Inc. these days.
The all-male social club located at 45 Mt. Auburn St., cut off from Harvard in the summer of 1984, faces a costly civil suit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last August charging it with negligence.
The suit, filed by a 20-year old former North-eastern University student who claims she was raped at a club party, charges that the club did not adequately supervise its 1988 Harvard-Yale football game party and did not ensure the safety of its guests.
The suit further charges that the club, which has no official ties to Harvard, violated state liquor laws by serving alcohol without a license, and allowing minors and intoxicated people to drink. Those factors, according to the complaint, may have contributed to the alleged rape.
Things in the recent past haven't been much better for the club.
Back in 1984, a furor arose after a club newsletter that described women as "pigs" and a "bevy of slobbering bovines ripe for the slaughter" surfaced. The letter encouraged men at the party to "slice into one of these meaty but grateful heffers [sic]." Although club members called the letter a parody at the time, President Derek C. Bok and other University officials formally condemned the club.
Interviews this week with at least six women who have attended Pi Eta parties paint a picture of "a meat market" atmosphere at the club, where women, they say, are treated disrespectfully.
Still, despite its reputation, the formal complaint is the only allegation of criminal activity that has been made against the club.
And club members, who refuse to discuss the details of the case, say the image of the Pi Eta as a place where beer-guzzling athletes take advantage of innocent women is "a total myth."
"It's obvious that we don't have the best reputation on campus, but I feel it's a bad rap," says Andrew J. Hodgman '90, club president. "Our parties run along the lines of some of the other clubs here," he says, adding he felt that Pi Eta was singled out because many of its 43 members are varsity athletes.
The club will have slightly more than 73 members after its fall punch, he says.
"It's one easy group to target," he says.
The women who attended the club parties, however, say they hold a different opinion.
"I wasn't impressed with them at all," says Amy, 21, a Pine Manor College senior who says she has attended two club parties for about 20 minutes each. "They weren't what you would think of as Harvard gentlemen at all. They were drunk. They were obnoxious. They were all really tacky and really cheesy," she says.
Merideth W. Sawyer, a first-year student at Lasell College in Newton, says she attended a club party last Saturday.
"I asked one guy why he was with these girls and he looked at me and said, `Why do you think?'" Sawyer says. "It was obvious" that the people's interest in each other was sex, she says.
"One guy went up to every girl and asked if they wanted to go home with him," she says.
Sawyer says there were "two inches of alcohol on the floor," an open bar upstairs and "perhaps three kegs of beer downstairs," adding the party was "really packed" until 2 a.m. when the deejay decided to leave.
Laurel, a 19-year old Lasell senior from Duxbury, Mass., says the Pi Eta club members appeared more respectful than hosts of M.I.T. and Northeastern University draternity parties she had attended.
But she adds, "A lot of the girls here come from small towns, are naive, and think that the guys at Pi Eta will be just like the guys from their hometown. They think that a guy from Harvard has to be a nice guy, but that's not true."