Schkolnick Appeals Ruling
Moves to Reverse MCAD's Decision in Fly Club Case
Lisa J. Schkolnick '88 took the first step toward reviving her discrimination complaint against the all-male Fly Club this week, lodging a formal appeal with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
At an informal hearing Wednesday, Schkolnick and attorney Kevin G. Baker presented MCAD officials with copies of the appeal, and spent more than an hour discussing the grounds for overturning the agency's March ruling in favor of the Fly.
While the MCAD found that it lacked jurisdiction to proceed against the Fly Club, one of nine all-male "final clubs" open to undergraduates, Schkolnick maintains in her appeal that "the commission's decision is not supported by the evidence and relies upon errors of law."
Arguing that that the MCAD's designation of the Fly as a "private" club was an unsound conclusion, the 12-page appeal claims that MCAD allowed the burden of proof to rest on the complainants rather than the respondent.
Saying that MCAD should have pushed for more detailed responses to its queries about the Fly Club, Baker pointed to the commission's acceptance of a poll conducted by a club official that concluded that members do not use their club affiliation to try to secure jobs after college.
"That seems evidence of the weakest sort," Baker said.
Baker also said the commission was inconsistent in its definition of club alumni as members. Noting that graduates are entitled to use club facilities, but are not involved in selecting members, he said that the March ruling did not set up adequate criteria for determining their status.
Schkolnick, now a first-year student at the Law School, said she and her lawyer were "still hopeful" of convincing MCAD to overturn its decision. "If the case is decided on its merits, we stand a good chance," said Schkolnick, who has said that she has considered taking the club to court if her appeal is denied.
The club's lawyers have three weeks to file a response with MCAD, which will then make a final decision on the complaint.
The complainants acknowledged that MCAD may be reluctant to overturn their decision, noting that recent state cutbacks have placed serious budgetary constraints on the agency.
"The agency feels like it doesn't have any resources," Baker said, "Basically it has ducked [the case] because it doesn't want to take on the issue."
Though he acknowledged that MCAD's financial limitations were considerable, Baker said, "That's not a legitimate reason [to downplay the complaint]...The message to everyone else is that it's okay to discriminate."
The Fly Club has had no official links to Harvard since 1984, when the College severed its ties with the final clubs after they failed to comply with University regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex.