A Misleading Attack
Recent posters, pamphlets conflate old Pi Eta fraternity with final clubs of today
The posters’ claim that Pi Eta’s problems are directly related to the nature of the final clubs at Harvard today was misleading and irresponsible. The sexual assaults that took place at Pi Eta were repugnant, but they took place over a decade ago—and thankfully, Pi Eta was closed down because of them in 1991. Moreover, Pi Eta was never a final club; it was a fraternity. Pi Eta’s problems, appalling though they were, have no place in discussions of final clubs’ current roles at Harvard. The pre-frosh at whom the boycott campaign was aimed had no way to know these details and so could have been manipulated into fearfully—and erroneously—concluding that all of Harvard’s varied final clubs are centers of sexual violence.
A pamphlet released simultaneously by Perspective and the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) was somewhat more informative and less egregiously inflammatory. Yet it too contained a plethora of misleading “facts,” repeatedly referring to Pi Eta’s litany of offenses in a pamphlet that purported to be about final clubs. The pamphlet contained a number of national statistics about assaults by “male fraternity members” that were never justifiably or directly linked to any events at Harvard’s final clubs. It refused to recognize that final clubs differ greatly amongst themselves and tried instead to straitjacket all of the clubs into the stereotype of abusive, dangerous institutions. For example, the RUS never properly explained how the Porcellian Club could attack women when it refuses to admit non-members (and, by implication, all females) beyond its foyer. Misleading information that seeks to lump the eight different clubs together does not help to establish a mature debate about the role of final clubs at Harvard.
There are many problems with Harvard’s final clubs. With their all-male membership and secretive, closed selection processes, they are relics of Harvard’s sexist, elitist past. That they are campus social centers is a sad reflection on Harvard’s nightlife.
There is surely a need for more extensive information about these clubs in order to demystify them and explain their presence in undergraduate social life. This should prove invaluable to students who deserve a more thorough understanding of the peculiar institutions in their midst. Last weekend’s misleading scare-mongering aimed at visiting pre-frosh is not the way to go about this worthy task.
RUS pamphlet was timely, welcome
The Staff is unfortunately severely misguided in criticizing the pamphlet “Behind Closed Doors: Final Clubs” distributed by the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) and Perspective. Although there was no excuse for Perspective’s inflammatory posters, the RUS pamphlet was welcome. The Staff calls the pamphlet misleading, but there is nothing misleading about putting the history of final clubs, unflattering as it may be, into an organized timeline.
The pamphlet makes clear that Pi Eta was not a final club, and when it presents national statistics about fraternities in general, it in no way misquotes or masks those statistics. This information is particularly timely, given that some pre-frosh found themselves at final clubs over the weekend, and this publication gave them some information about the choice they are making when they accept a club member’s invitation to party. The Staff calls for some group somewhere to write an impartial account of final clubs for students. Who would this be? The University? The final clubs themselves?
This pamphlet described how Harvard’s social scene works, information that is important to any student choosing a college. It will allow students to make more informed choices. RUS should be commended for its efforts.
—Ronaldo Rauseo-Ricupero ’04
and Phoebe M. W. Kosman ’05