The beginning of the fall semester brings the start of final club recruitment and with it, a sense of anticipation as sophomores wonder if they will be one of the “punched.”
But last Monday, a number of undergraduates received a different type of letter under their door. The envelope didn’t bear the seal of a final club, nor did the note inside invite the recipient to an exclusive punch event.
The letter, sent to sophomore males, instead asked students “to consider not punching a final club this fall.”
Sabrina G. Lee ’12, one of the students involved in the campaign, said that the project’s goal was to encourage “discourse” about final clubs and the punch process.
“Raising awareness about why people shouldn’t join final clubs is important,” Lee said. “For some students that I’ve talked to that are punching final clubs, the information that’s out there isn’t that great.”
The letter asked recipients to consider “exclusivity, “gender discrimination,” “unequal access to social space on Harvard’s campus,” and “lack of transparency” when deciding whether or not to punch a final club.
“I don’t anticipate [the letter] to end punch,” said Carolyn W. Chou ’13, one of the campaign’s organizers. “I just think that it’s important to have other voices around the issue of final clubs.”
Chou said that the group wanted to replicate the “symbolic” nature of the letter-under-the-door ritual employed by final clubs in the annual punch process.
She added the group chose to target sophomore males “because of the access to space and wealth that is given to male final clubs but not universally accessible to female final clubs.”
The group attempted to deliver letters to as many male students as possible, but Chou said that—given that there were fewer than a dozen students involved in the project—it was likely that some sophomores may have been missed. Several students interviewed for this story said that they had neither received the letter nor heard of the project.
Of those who had received a letter, some said that they appreciated the group’s mission while others said that they failed to see the point.
But the organizers said they hoped that at least some students who received the letter will think seriously about the role that final clubs play in Harvard’s social scene.
Lee said this year’s campaign echoed the sentiments of a similar effort last year that sent fliers to almost every Harvard undergraduate, regardless of class or gender, inviting them to “NOT join a final club.”
Though that group was later absorbed by the larger student group “Students for Safe Social Space,” Lee, who is also a part of Students for Safe Social Space, said that there were still some members who prioritized the original message discouraging students from joining final clubs.
“I definitely know that people remain interested in this issue,” Lee said of the campaign against final clubs. “It can be important to give voice to the side that is not too frequently heard.”
—Monika L. S. Robbins contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.