Camera-toting tourists may have gotten more than they bargained for yesterday when they spotted men wearing dresses and dancing on the steps of Widener Library.
Students in drag paraded before amused and disgusted onlookers as part of initiation ceremonies for several of the College's eight final clubs.
Students "punching," or pledging. Harvard's all-male private clubs generally undergo a week or more of organized humiliation before they are formally initiated into the societies, members said yesterday.
One pledge said he was slightly surprised by the rigor of his would-be club's punch process.
"I'm a little intimidated by it," said one sophomore who is punching the Owl. The student, who did not wish to be identified, said he participated in underwear-only sumo wrestling Monday, as well as the drag fashion show on the Widener steps yesterday.
The College officially broke all ties with the final clubs in 1985, when the Board of Overseers ruled the club's single-sex policies violated the College's policy of non-discrimination.
Although the Fly Club attempted a co-educational punch two years ago, club members were overruled by their graduate board. Since then no clubs have made moves toward co-ed punches.
During the selection processes, which resembles fraternity rushes, clubs invite prospective punchers to cocktail receptions. At the end of the punch parties, fewer than 20 students are usually invited to join each club.
"It's a lot of schmoozing and boozing to be accepted," said Salvatore Gogliormella '98, a Quincy resident who is punching the Phoenix.
While some final clubs, like the Owl and the Spee, are known for their degrading punch activities, others have less arduous initiations.
"The Phoenix is a kinder, gentler club," said Gogliormella. "But most of the wilder stuff happens at initiation."
"Their trademark is to be fair to each puncher, so if they're mean to you this week, they'll be nicer to you" at the club's initiation dinner this Friday, he said.
"Most of the clubs have their initiations next week, which means they have a longer period of torture for the punchers," Gogliormella said.
Initiation activities range from passing out flyers protesting the killing of turkeys for Thanksgiving to barking at tourists and singing to diners at the Freshman Union during lunch.
"Some of them were paying people fifty cents to rub lotion on their backs," said Widener steps observer Christopher R. Hall '99 yesterday. "My price is higher than that."
"They make us dress up like fools and walk around school," said a sophomore Owl puncher, who said pledges were instructed not to reveal their names or the nature of any punch activities which did not take place in public.
"We also did public serenading of hand-picked girls. Some people sang 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling,'" the student said