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Final Clubs Stereotyped

Letters

To the editors:

I have grown tired of the seemingly endless attacks on final clubs in our University's leading daily--both in staff articles and editorials and in submitted student letters. It never ceases to amaze me that Harvard students, pursuing their education at a place that claims to teach them to think critically, continue to rely on tired cliches and useless generalizations when referring to final clubs and final club members. The rants are familiar: Final clubs are "sexist," "elitist," "racist," "classist," "homophobic," etc. If we are to believe the tirades of Crimson writers and the submissions of certain well-opinionated students, final clubs are also responsible (along with investment bankers) for the moral corruption which plagues our University and our country. Have I covered all the bases? It really doesn't matter; these stereotypes are just that--stereotypes--and as such reveal the ignorance of the propagandist who chooses to use them when blaming final clubs for campus ills. Grouping final clubs into an institution that represents all that is wrong with America is absurd. I contend that a final club member in such a hostile environment feels much like the Harvard student reluctant to "drop the H-bomb" in certain company; both individuals fear that their affiliation will subject them to derogatory labels and character judgments.

Perhaps this is why Ely J. Kahn lashed out the way he did (Letters, Feb. 17). His words may have been particularly abrasive and full of useless generalizations, but are they really any different from the countless letters and articles we read in The Crimson condemning final clubs, blaming them for all manner of social ills? The truth about final clubs is that they are similar to other clubs on campus--the Lampoon, the Kroks, the Black Students Association--where members from different backgrounds come together through common interests, forming life-long friendships in the process. Final clubs in particular are fortunate to have had a founding group of members who out of their love for their club and their alma mater purchased the real estate and built the facilities we see today. Most final clubs have existed for at least 100 years--long before much of Harvard or the house system itself was in place. Prior restrictions on guests, as well as recent, stricter policies, do not reflect final club elitism, as has been suggested in The Crimson, but instead a conscious effort to preserve the clubs in an era when issues of legal liability threaten to close them down.

Harvard students love to play the blame game. Social life at Harvard less than desirable? Blame final clubs, blame the administration, blame anyone but yourself. An overexaggeration perhaps, but it seems to me that Harvard's social life would improve drastically if its students stopped bickering with each other and worked together to create new social outlets and a better sense of school spirit. Enough is enough. Let's put down our pens and see what we can accomplish. JONATHAN POWERS '00   Feb. 22, 1999 The writer is an officer of the Owl Club.