Earlier this March, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana issued a school-wide email that included the Implementation Committee’s final recommendations on unrecognized single-gender social organizations. The 46-page report contains a host of ideas, spanning from the details of USGSO penalties to the replacement of final clubs in campus social culture. With the exception of a few deficiencies, many of the report’s ideas to fortify social culture show great promise to shift student life away from the social hegemony of final clubs.
Students and faculty have already begun to lambast the report—particularly its recommendation to create inter-House “dining societies” that seem to echo the elitism of final clubs themselves. The report’s suggestion that these “dining societies” could gather to read Chaucer aloud together in dining halls may have especially missed the mark.
The College, of course, must not recreate the culture of final clubs. Instead, it should ensure that the societies and spaces it describes are distributed equitably across the student body. The report’s language of putting on “a gala mixer at the Harvard Club of Boston” and renting “a cruise boat on the Boston Harbor” seem to raise more questions about whether these proposed social options are accessible to all. As stated in the recommendations, every proposal for inclusive social spaces should be designed to minimize financial or cultural barriers to participation. These initiatives should provide and clearly advertise financial aid for students with need.
However, we cannot let the minutiae of the Implementation Committee’s report distract us from its more important initiatives. In particular, the report’s ideas on improving the physical social spaces on campus have succeeded in responding to student wishes. Renovating and opening the roof of the SOCH as a party space for students, for example, demonstrates a commitment to creating the infrastructure for social spaces that students have previously demanded. Other plans, such as repurposing the Cambridge Queen’s Head and investing in Loeb House as a potential event hall, further underline the committee’s acknowledgement of the dearth of physical social spaces on campus.
If implemented with sufficient cultural and financial awareness, the dining societies can similarly strengthen House life on campus. Weekly meals that foster community spirit have already been proven to be successful for organizations like the Franklin Fellowship. However, the College will have to be careful that these potential organizations' goal to be “open to all who wish to participate” is not undermined by the societies themselves.Moving forward, we must look beyond the immediate details of the report and see the merit underlying many of its suggestions. Final club culture must change, but change takes time. The Implementation Committee’s recommendations have pioneered a strong start for instituting a new social culture on campus, groundwork that represents important progress.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
Sex and the Social NetworkBut we can do better. Not only for those of us at Harvard struggling to be socially mobile in a space whose norms and institutions seem calculated to keep us down, but for the broader society that our social networks, through their connection to professional power, disproportionately affect.
Putting Harvard's Administration on NoticeUndergraduates, alumni, faculty, potential applicants and donors to Harvard University, it is time for all of us to put Harvard’s administration “on notice.”
A Step in the Right DirectionWe applaud the Houses for taking an important step toward bringing students back to on-campus spaces for parties and social events while also fostering greater House community.
Beyond Money for Social SpacesIf Harvard aspires to continue creating more inclusive social spaces in the future, administrators must consider providing resources other than money to support such endeavors.
The Future of Harvard Social GroupsThe Crimson Editorial Board reacts to the new policy recommendation on social groups.