Female Undergraduates Form New Social Organization

The Seneca shuns `final club' label, seeks space, funds

Just as Radcliffe loses its college status and more and more final clubs close their doors to female guests, a new organization for Harvard's female undergraduates has emerged.

The Seneca, which currently has 19 members, promises to provide women with increased social and support networks on campus.

"Some people feel that Harvard has been developed by men, and that institutions [developed by men] are still around, even if Harvard refuses to recognize that," said Julia M. Butler '01, a member of the organization.

The idea for the Seneca originally came from a male final club that wanted a sister organization, Butler said. When that plan fell through, the women involved in the venture decided to form a club of their own.

The Seneca, named for the women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, has been gaining new members since December.

According to Butler, when members spoke to the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) in late March and inquired about the possibility of a sponsorship from the group, they were told that because the organization would be selective and purely social in nature, they could not be affiliated with RCAA.

The group has not approached Harvard for recognition because the College does not officially recognize single-sex organizations such as the eight all-male final clubs, the one all-female final club, and the fraternities and sororities currently on campus.

Kirstin E. Butler '01 (no relation to Julia) said the group is not the female equivalent of a male final club.

"Final clubs are that construct, social and elite," Kirstin Butler said. "We wanted to help the entire female population...[The name] signifies women's advancement."

The group's members said their first priority is acquiring property. The Seneca's already established real estate committee has been exploring the possibility of purchasing property near the Square while the financial committee is exploring fundraising options and potential costs.

The group anticipates that a suitable space will cost $1.5 to $2 million.

But Julia Butler said she is certain the group will either purchase or rent a space bythe fall.

While one of the group's original goals was tobetter publicize the opportunities available forwomen at Radcliffe, after the announcement of themerger of the two institutions, the club's goalshave become more general. Members said theyenvision their club serving as a place formeetings, community discussion, speakers, forumsand social interaction.

Although the group is still in its primaryplanning stages, members said the club would havean open application process rather than a"punch"--the initiation method used by male finalclubs.

"We'll have very different interests asindividual members, but our common interest willbe in improving women's life at Harvard," KirstinButler said.

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