Politics Surround Fly Move to Co-Ed

With the Fly Club's graduate council decision last week to delay admitting women this fall, some undergraduate members say they're unsure of whether the measure will actually go through.

But with the overwhelming support of 78 percent of the graduates who responded to the council's opinion poll and with the undivided support of undergraduates, many say women will definitely be Fly members by next fall--at the latest.

"There's suspicion that it's an elaborate plan to stall and thus derail [plans to admit women]. That's not the case. Women are going to enter the club," said a Fly graduate member who wished to remain anonymous.

Skeptical members point to the lack of a deadline to enforce integration of women as proof that the graduates are not committed to a co-ed Fly Club.

They also say that because the council makes admitting women contingent on continued undergraduate support, members admitted this year may add voices of dissent to the united front presented by undergraduate members. In 1989, a proposal to go co-ed was voted down by undergraduate members.

Undergraduate members voted unanimously with one abstention in September to seek approval from its graduates to go co-ed. After polling 1,100 of its living graduates, the Fly's council resolved last Wednesday that the club could admit women after a committee establishes guidelines for the change.

"It was amazing that we could come to this decision unanimously," Fly member John K. Hill '94 said in an interview last week. Hill also said he fears "guys admitted to the club may feel differently about this issue."

But many members, both past and present, say the decision to delay going co-ed was a political ploy to maintain the support--both spiritual and financial--of some graduates. They say they had to balance the desire to affect change with the reluctance of some graduates to break a 157-year-old tradition.

The Fly is dependent on the financial support of its graduates, who provide more than half of the club's funds for punches and events, according to Eric E. Vogt '70, Fly Club council president.

"It's part of an elaborate concern not to alienate the older graduates and make them feel included," says one graduate member.

"It's a club, not Congress, and there's the feeling that they don't want to steamroll the older graduates who've been very helpful. They don't want to be heedless of their feelings," the member adds.

Even after the council's effort to assess the views of its graduate members, Vogt said last week that the club will continue soliciting input from graduates by sending out mass mailings to keep members involved.

And aside from trying to appease reluctant graduates, members who advocated the delay also say there are many serious practical issues to consider. EvenFly Club President Scott B. Logan '94, whooriginally pushed for a fall co-ed punch, ceded tothe concerns of the graduates and says he agreesthat the club needs more time to prepare for thechange.

A letter addressed to club graduates statesthat a committee will be established to setguidelines for admitting women by next year's fallpunch season.

The committee, to be composed of six or eightFly Club graduates and undergraduates, will bechaired by Logan and Vogt.

Although some members see creating a committeeas a way of "stonewalling" undergraduate effortsuntil the measure loses support through changingmembership, several say they do not foresee anyobstacles to the Fly admitting women.

"I don't foresee it as a problem. The idea ofthe punch is that you find people who are yourfriends, who you'd hope would feel the same way,"member W. Callender Hurtt '94 says.

Punchmaster Walter E. Sipe '95 also says he isconfident that members admitted this year willprovide the continued support necessary to admitwomen.

"I have every reason to hope that the new classwill have the same capacity for openness andreason and rational discussion. If they displaythose traits, I think we'll be all right," hesays.

"If [changing membership is] such a hurdle thatthere's only this one window to do this, thatdoesn't speak very well for the club," Sipe says