Students Consider University Recognition for Single-Sex Groups

Nora F Eccles

Students discuss the lack of social space for single-sex student organizations on campus in an event sponsored by Delta Gamma, The Seneca, and the Harvard College Women’s Center.

Students from varied social circles discussed the skewed social dynamic between male and female single-sex groups and the need for some form of University recognition for these groups during an event in Adams Lower Common Room yesterday.

The conversation on female social space—co-sponsored by the Women’s Center, the sorority Delta Gamma, and the all-female social organization The Seneca, Inc.—consisted of large and small group discussions about the role of single-sex social spaces on campus.

One recurring theme was the slanted power dynamic between male and female social organizations. Participants examined reasons for this imbalance and discussed possible solutions.

“This conversation made me think about the fact that Harvard’s history as an all-male institution means the male finals clubs have got very entrenched footholds [sic],” Anastasia N. Roda ’12 said. “In a way, not recognizing [single sex social organizations] is discriminating ... [that’s why] the main social scene is controlled by men.”

The discussion of whether or not single sex organizations should be recognized was a hot topic throughout the night.

“I think it’s important that the faculty recognize these groups’ role in campus life,” Seneca member Margaret A. Muller ’11 said. “It seems that the prevalent attitude with the faculty is that if it is not seen, it does not exist ... of course, that’s not true.”

For some, the prospect of single-sex organizations being recognized by the University seemed like the first step to correcting the gender power imbalance in the social scene.

“The faculty should recognize single-sex organizations,” Roda said. “It might give the other organizations the kind of foothold they need to start to compete [with final clubs].”

According to event organizers, the inspiration for the event came from a desire to formalize the casual conversations about the issue that many had heard around campus.

“Students on campus often talk about social life,” said Alexa I. Stern ’12, president of the Seneca and a co-organizer of the event. “We wanted to bring together a diverse group of people for this important discussion.”

Students attending the event felt it was necessary to address the issue of social space for single sex organizations.

“I think it’s a really important conversation that needed to happen,” Muller said. “Given the turn-out, a lot of people feel the same way.”

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

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