Dozens of undergraduates piled into the Winthrop House Junior Common Room on Monday for a nearly two hour-long discussion about exclusivity in social spaces at the College.
Although the event, hosted by the the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, was open to all undergraduates, organizers closed off the meeting to the press to “provide a space for productive dialogue.” The event’s Facebook page repeatedly requested that students not attend in their capacity as journalists, and several attendees said they were strongly discouraged from speaking to the press about the event.
The event attracted about 100 students in total and featured undergraduates who are members of unrecognized social clubs as well as students who are not, according to Irfan Mahmud ’16, a Harvard Foundation intern who is also an inactive Crimson news writer.
According to Cary A. Williams ’16, who is listed as a Harvard Foundation intern on the organization’s website, organizers purposefully did not invite administrators because they wanted to have a discussion only among undergraduates.
According to Sam R. Peinado ’15, who attended the meeting, the organizers allowed for free responses and questions. He added that they did not seem to “shepherd” the conversation.
“Some people got a window into a perspective they didn’t know about before,” Peinado said.
William A. Greenlaw ’17, an Undergraduate Council representative who attended, said the meeting was “really good” because it featured a diverse array of perspectives and participants were patient in responding to each other.
Several attendees declined to comment on specifics of the meeting, and organizers initially requested after the event that The Crimson not include information from students who attended the meeting and described specifics of the conversations.
Although The Crimson did not agree to that request, few students described, even in broad detail, the course of the conversations.
The discussion follows an increase in both the prominence of Greek life on campus and debate about the influence of unrecognized social groups on student life.
Although the College purposefully does not recognize all-male or female final clubs, sororities, and fraternities, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and other administrators do engage with the groups.
In recent months, Khurana has more vocally broached the topic of exclusivity in social spaces. Persistently criticizing perceived exclusivity in extracurricular organizations, Khurana sent an email to undergraduates in March condemning a controversial party invitation sent to some students by the Spee Club, one of the College’s all-male final clubs. Khurana has also met with leaders of male and female final clubs at regular meetings hosted by the Office of Student Life.
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.