Parties on the first weekend after spring break are notoriously wild, and the Pi Eta Speakers Club's Saturday night bash was no exception. Music blared out the windows. Women streamed in, as many as a dozen at a time. Most were from all-female colleges, but a handful were from Harvard.
During the course of the night, police asked the club to turn down its music and an intoxicated woman was carried to the door. Two women identifying themselves as high school students emerged from the party.
Club members interviewed outside the late-night bash echoed several points. The club has gotten a bad reputation as a result of inaccurate media coverage, they said. They also claimed that people look down on Pi Eta because it is not one of the nine "true" final clubs.
Others said that people unfairly saddle the club's present membership with problems that occurred at the Pi Eta before they even came to Harvard.
"I think the club is misrepresented. We've gotten a lot of bad publicity," said Jeffrey Wood '93, an officer-at-large of the club.
"There are a lot of myths. Its a place where guys get together and have a good time," said member David W. Son '91.
All of the members and nearly all of the women interviewed said they had no personal knowledge of any mistreatment of women attending Pi Eta Club parties.
"That's a myth. Nobody gets abused here," said Son.
Mary McCall, a sophomore at Pine Manor College who said she goes to the Pi "four nights out of seven," said her experiences at the club have been positive ones.
"I consider the Pi a very exciting place and I've never encountered any bad incidents," she said.
Indeed, the night's events resembled those one might find at many Harvard parties or in any social club here. Yet recent allegations of sexual misconduct at the club continue to plague its reputation.
Earlier this month, the club settled a lawsuit brought by a former Northeastern University student who claimed she was raped at the club in 1988.
"As far as reputation goes, the rape case doesn't help," Wood said, adding that alumni had not informed the undergraduates about the settlement before it appeared in The Crimson. He said that he wished the case had gone to trial so that the facts surrounding the alleged rape could have been publicly established.
The incident "took place in 1988, when two-thirds of the people here were not members. The reputation that we get is from people that haven't been here for a long time. The case has nothing to do with us," said Barry G. Littman '91, a former president of the club.
"I do not think that anything done at the Pi Eta Speakers Club is solely characteristic of our organization," said Brian H. Murphy '92.
Murphy then proceeded to conduct a number of interviews outside the club to demonstrate that women actually enjoyed their visit. All of those questioned by Murphy said they had fun at the party although one complained that the "guys are a little bit sleazier" than at the other clubs and another said that there were too many women.
Two Harvard women undergraduates, who are regular visitors to the Pi, spoke highly of its undergraduate members.
"I've always been treated so well here. Guys will always walk you home," said Valerie C. Nellen '91. She said the allure of the Pi is that it "is the closest Harvard comes to a normal college frat."
Asked about the club's past use of sexist language, including references to women as "pigs," partner Julie D. Hopkins '91 said she thought few of the current members harbored those feelings.
"Most of them don't really believe that," Hopkins said. Nellen said she thought such comments were often made in jest.
They're always ragging on each other," Nellen said of the members. "Any final club you go to, you'll find a lot of male bonding."
Kathryn I. Frucher '93, co-president if the Radcliffe Union of Students, said in an interview last week that students of both sexes who attend parties at the Pi Eta Club or other all-male clubs should reconsider their actions.
"There are a lot of good guys in Pi Eta. I don't have problems with all of them. I have problems with the institution. They choose to support a discriminatory institution. Both men and women haven't examined the implications," Frucher said.
When women go to parties at all-male clubs, they "have to cater to the men." Frucher said.
Late That Night
At about 12:30 a.m., a semi-conscious woman was carried to the front entrance. Several men attending the party attempted to place the woman on her feet.
Minutes later, another woman dashed out of the club in hysterics. She was crying and screaming. "I can't believe she punched me in the face," she yelled to a friend. "I wish she had killed herself."
A Cambridge police officer stood outside the club's 45 Mt. Auburn St. door, but neither he nor anyone else appeared to check the identification of people entering the building. People emerging from the club carried beer bottles and alcohol-laden punch.
Two young women who came out of the club after midnight said they attend Cohasset High School in Cohasset, Mass. The women said they heard about the party from friends, who warned them about the atmosphere inside.
"You have to be real careful when you go in there because you're a girl," said one of the young women, who identified herself only as "Lisa." She added that the club is a "dirty place," and it is easy to slip on the floor.
This story is based on a visit to the Pi Eta Speakers Club on the night of Saturday, April 6.