Why the Fly Club Changed Its Mind On Women

Special Report

Last year, a handful of seniors who were members of the Fly Club decided it was time to admit women into an institution that had been exclusively male for 156 years.

"Who are we to deny women, [our] peers on campus, the same experience," a Fly club member who graduated last year says of the seniors' reasoning.

To them, the idea didn't seem revolutionary, but they knew they had to convince the rest of the Fly, one of Harvard's nine all-male final clubs. Last September, the matter came to a vote, and Fly members voted 28-0 to admit women, with one abstention.

They thought they'd won.

"They had weight, they were respected, cool guys," says an alumni member of the Fly who graduated more than a decade ago and supports making the club co-ed. "To do something like this takes guts--you need a core group. It may sound silly to you, but in the context of the club it takes guts."

Last month, however, the push for a co-ed Fly Club--started a year ago by that group of seniors--hit a road-block. The club announced that it had polled its members again, and there was no longer a "clear consensus" for allowing women into the Fly.

According to a statement released by the Fly after the vote, the thirty-three undergraduate members chose "club unity over women."

"This is not a negative step, just a slowing down," said Fly President Robert M. Carlock '95 in an interview the day after the vote.

Women Appealing for Change (WAC), a group that formed during the past academic year to urge a boycott of the clubs, focused its wrath on the Fly. In a letter to The Crimson, they called the decision an "embarrassment" which "undermines the values which Harvard is supposed to represent."

But, sources say, the bid to make the Fly co-ed was effectively thwarted long before last month's undergraduate vote.

Graduate members of the Fly say the club's graduate board is to blame. By deciding to delay the vote by a year instead of acting immediately, the graduate board allowed the bid to admit women into the Fly to lose critical momentum.

For some members of the graduate board, the vote to delay was a strategy intended to stop the drive for a co-ed club.

"I have no doubt that the core anti-women crowd knew it was a good tactic," says the alumni member who graduated more than a decade ago.

The board's decision also permitted the proposal's most eager backers--the Lowell seniors--to graduate before undergraduates could give final approval to a co-ed punch.

"I wish they had decided last spring while the seniors were still around," the alumni member says.