Students Host Closed Forum on ‘Changing Social Scene’

Dozens of undergraduates convened in Lowell House on Monday night for an off-the-record discussion about the College’s social scene in light of increased scrutiny on single gender social organizations.

Although organizers of the discussion originally indicated that the event would be on the record, meaning it would be open to the press, they later double backed, writing on a Facebook event page that it was “OFF THE RECORD.”

The page did not offer an explanation for the change, which effectively barred student journalists from entry to the discussion. Several interns at the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, the organization that sponsored the event, did not respond to requests for comment.

The forum, entitled “The Changing Social Scene at Harvard,” follows an increase in attention to social life on campus and the role of administrators in offering up open social spaces to undergraduates. As administrators—from University President Drew G. Faust to Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana—have publicly criticized the College’s unrecognized male final clubs, undergraduates have decried a social scene that some say is too stratified.

Most recently, two historically all-male final clubs, the Fox and Spee Clubs, have moved to admit women to their memberships. Although undergraduate leaders of the Fox indicated in a letter to club alumni last month that the choice was their own, officers also suggested that Harvard administrators have put heavy pressure on final clubs to admit women, writing that they feared potential repercussions if they did not formulate plans to go co-ed by Nov. 1.

Several students who attended the Monday night event declined to comment afterward. Undergraduate Council Representative and vice presidential candidate Daniel V. Banks ’17 said the discussion was productive, but would not offer more specifics. “College administrators” were expected to attend to the discussion, according to the event’s Facebook page.

“I went to the event to listen and learn from the students’ experiences. I feel it is important to truly hear the plurality of student voices and our students’ aspirations for creating a more inclusive and fun social experience at the College,” Khurana wrote in an emailed statement.

In private, Khurana has met with undergraduate and graduate leaders of final clubs, but has offered few details on these interactions. Although he has alluded to an upcoming set of recommendations about the College social scene that he is preparing, he has declined to comment on whether he has instructed male final clubs to submit proposals for going co-ed.

Khurana has also declined to describe his involvement, if any, in the Spee Club’s decision to go co-ed and refused to rule out whether administrators would consider barring undergraduates from joining male final clubs.

In an effort to bolster social life in Houses, some administrators have offered up new spaces and sources of funding for student events.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at noah.delwiche@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.

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