The Clubs Outfoxed

The administration’s laudable attempts to improve the social scene are paying off

Last weekend, The Crimson reported that the previously male-only Fox Club had accepted a group of junior and senior female undergraduates to oversee a three-year transition towards becoming a fully co-ed final club. Subsequently, The Crimson published a letter sent by the club’s undergraduate leadership to its graduate members outlining their rationale for including women and stressing both the undergraduates members' desire to admit women and pressure from the University administration to do so.

The Fox’s move towards gender inclusivity is an important step in improving the social scene on campus. Still, it is no silver bullet. Final clubs have a long way to go to be truly inclusive, and the administration and the student body should not stop asking for change.

The Fox Club is the second male-only final club to move to add women to its ranks, after the Spee’s decision to punch female undergraduates this autumn. As we said last month, the inclusion of women is an important first step to bettering Harvard’s social scene. Spaces once controlled entirely by men will, in theory, become more open and more equal—especially if females newly admitted to the Fox and the Spee stand on the same footing as male members and have a real say in the club’s decisions.

But becoming co-ed is not a panacea. The punch process is still invite-only and self-selecting, and female punches of the Spee this year are being judged and admitted by a male-only body of undergraduates. More notable still, the Fox and the Delphic have turned to female final clubs to rectify their gender imbalance: Much of the Fox's new membership consists of women already in female final clubs, and the Delphic has approached at least one female club about a merger.

It should be obvious that the coming-together of two exclusive but separate clubs does not produce a truly diverse and inclusive organization. After all, the flaws in final clubs extend far beyond gender. These clubs have long failed to represent Harvard’s great socioeconomic and racial diversity, and have too often only reified and reinforced the homogeneity that Harvard has sought to fight as an institution.

Moreover, the Fox's letter gives us reason for pause. To their credit, the undergraduate membership of the Fox voted unanimously to become coed, a change they claim to “cheerfully make.” But elsewhere in the memo, perhaps to appeal to a reluctant graduate board, the writers cite the club’s and their own reputations and protest the administration’s “distasteful [...] pressure.”

This pressure on final clubs is bearing positive fruit. Going forward, the administration should continue its critical work of ensuring that social spaces at Harvard, both on and off campus, are open to all—not just a select and privileged few. That's the only way to ensure that final clubs build on their recent progress not just in gender inclusivity, but in racial and socioeconomic diversity as well. As a campus—students, administrators, and professors—we must strive to leave Harvard better than we found it. Changes like this give us hope that we may do just that.

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