Final Clubs: Safe Spaces to Party?

Part IV in a IV Part Series

(Part I, Part II, and Part III of this story appeared on April 30, May 3, and May 5, 2010.)

Sexual assault can happen anywhere. But, fairly or unfairly, when predatory sexual behavior at Harvard is discussed, the conversation often turns to the all-male final clubs, whose parties are known for their free-flowing alcohol and lack of administrative supervision.

Members of the Phoenix S.K. Club say they are struggling to overcome what some suggest is a less than sterling reputation.

“All it takes is one person, one story, one twisted account of a story to scar an entire group of people,” says Phoenix member Daniel A. Sack ’10.

While it is difficult to ascertain the degree to which male final clubs are associated with the cases of sexual assault that take place on Harvard’s campus, many students and administrators say that the conditions at club parties create an environment conducive to sexual assault.

Some of the clubs, including the Phoenix, have taken tangible steps to improve women’s safety, such as working with the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, or Harvard Men Against Rape. But many students and administrators say that more work remains to make the final clubs—which host a substantial share of the parties attended by Harvard undergraduates—safer spaces.

‘HAVE A DRINK WITH ME’

After a stressful week, many students who are looking to let loose and party head to final clubs.

Some partygoers are hoping to hook up, while others are just there to dance. But sometimes, what starts out as an innocent evening spent enjoying the company of one’s peers can take a turn for the worse.

One night, Laura—a Harvard undergraduate whose name has been changed to protect her privacy—attended a list-only party at the Spee Club.

Throughout the night, she says, she felt constant pressure to keep drinking. The party had an ice luge for shots, and attendees were playing drinking games.

“Guys were always saying to me, ‘Have a drink with me.’ ‘Take a shot with me,’” she says.

Though she never “blacked out,” Laura steadily became more intoxicated as the night progressed.

“I was really, really drunk and this guy was giving me drinks,” she says. “He ended up taking me upstairs. We ended up having sex.”

At the time, she says, she consented to having sex. But she adds, “It’s not something I would have done if I wasn’t drunk.”

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