Final Clubs: Love ’Em or Leave ’Em?

Özdemir Vayısoğlu

The AD Club

With punch season now in full swing, it’s time to present the results of Flyby’s first-ever Final Club Survey. The online survey was emailed out last month to 4,838 sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and was partially or fully completed 1,927 times (though it should be noted that individuals could have taken the survey more than once). In the final installment of a six-part series on the survey results, we take a look at whether respondents believe final clubs should exist at all.

What role do Harvard’s final clubs play on campus? Do they represent the worst in a culture of elitism or are they perfectly legitimate institutions whose social events and spaces are a positive presence on campus? Clearly, campus opinion is divided on these questions. But how does that divide actually break down?

SOCIAL EFFECTS ON CAMPUS

Crimson articles from years past have painted final clubs as bastions of privilege that are irrevelant to the rest of the Harvard social scene. But our survey suggests that while female clubs are not perceived to have a significant impact on today’s campus social scene, male clubs are perceived to have an impactfor better or for worse.

When asked to evaluate the social effects of Harvard’s five female final clubs on campus, a plurality of respondents46 percentcharacterized these effects as neutral. Respondents who said the female clubs had social effects either way were evenly split, with 27 percent saying female final clubs have positive or very positive social effects, and 27 percent saying the female clubs’ social impact is negative or very negative.

Overall, respondents were more critical of the social effects of male clubs on campus. A majority of respondents54 percent—said they believe the male clubs have negative or very negative social effects on campus. Twenty-five percent characterized the social impact of male clubs as positive or very positive, and just 21 percent of respondents said they believe the male clubs have a neutral social impact on campus.

Women were more likely than men to criticize male final clubs, with 57 percent of female respondents characterizing the social effects of male final clubs as negative or very negative, compared to just 49 percent of male respondents.

Respondents’ perceptions of the social effects of clubs varied with the frequency with which they reported going to male final club parties. Seventy-six percent of respondents who said they never attend male final club parties characterized the social impact of the male clubs as negative or very negative, compared to just 18 percent of respondents who said they go to male final club parties more than once a week.

UNIVERSITY RECOGNITION

Although a majority of respondents said they believe male clubs have negative or very negative social effects on campus, a majority54 percentagreed that the University should not recognize the clubs in accordance with its policy of not recognizing student organizations that discriminate based on gender. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they disagree with the University’s stance, while 15 percent were undecided.

TO ABOLISH OR NOT TO ABOLISH?

Should the 222-year-old tradition of final clubs at Harvard continue? A majority—58 percent—said they believe male clubs should be kept running. Twenty-two percent said they believe male clubs should be abolished, and 20 percent were undecided.

Respondents also generally advocated keeping female final clubs running. Fifty-nine percent of the 1,460 respondents saying that female clubs should not be abolished, with 19 percent saying they should be shut down and 22 percent undecided.

Respondents who identified as homosexual or bisexual were more likely to be in favor of abolishing both male and female clubs. Women were more likely than men to be undecided about whether the male and female clubs should be abolished. A greater percentage of men than women said clubs should be abolished, and a greater percentage of men than women also said the clubs should not be abolished.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, respondents who spent more time partying at male final clubs were more likely to oppose abolishing male final clubs, while students who said they never party at final clubs were more likely than self-identified final club partygoers to be in favor of abolishing the male clubs.

TAKEAWAYS

The results of our survey show that while respondents largely think that male final clubs are a negative presence on Harvard’s campus and do not believe the University should recognize male and female clubs as official student organizations, they stop short at calling for the clubs’ abolition.

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