“The Kremlin on the Charles” was Richard Nixon’s famous epithet for Harvard. It will start to apply with discomfiting accuracy if Dean Khurana does not reconsider his sanctions on single-gender social organizations.
I am not talking about the inscrutable bureaucratic morass that has sprung up since the sanctions were first announced. I am not even talking about the cross-purposed surprise committees that have perplexed even the bureaucrats themselves. I refer instead to the intensely totalitarian consequences that will result from the implementation of the sanctions.
Let’s look at the final clubs, the primary targets. The sanctions would bar any member of a single-gender final club from receiving endorsement for several important fellowships, athletic team captaincies, and leadership positions in all student groups recognized by the University. (This is not including the even stricter revisions proposed by somebody who, among other things, obviously could not be bothered to notice that The Crimson is entirely separate from the University and can choose whatever leadership it wants.) They are very tidy on paper, but how would they be enforced? Only by means of Soviet-style spy rings.
The policy could be brought to bear quite easily if only members of final clubs were all tattooed on their foreheads, but in reality, clubs do not publish membership lists. The University therefore does not have a roster of people whom it can confidently disbar from leadership positions. This presents a rather large problem, for Dean Khurana cannot disenfranchise these people if he doesn’t know who they are, and if the clubs won’t tell him, he’ll have to find out for himself.
Now, he could disguise himself, enroll at the College, infiltrate the clubs and expose the members in a thrilling undercover operation, and then perhaps he could interview El Chapo. This is the less ridiculous of two options. The more ridiculous is for him to rely on hearsay, gossip and anonymous phone tips to persecute the final club members. Roommates will be informing on roommates: “I saw Harry go out wearing a tie last Saturday—he must be in a final club!” It is impossible that Rakesh “Community” Khurana will be able to stomach looking like Stalin terrorizing Ukrainian farmers. The sanctions will then have to go. There is no other way.
How could a university so obstreperously devoted to justice and inclusion be willing to enact such an opaque and unjust policy? At the moment, the administration’s strategy is simply to hope that the clubs cave before it actually has to make good on its threats, but they won’t all cave, and the sanctions will be exposed as illiberal nonsense.
On the other hand, we must remember that final club members are hardly choir boys. As a conservative, I immediately leap to the defense of anyone who draws the ire of the left, but it is important that I check exactly what it is I am defending. While I strongly oppose the sanctions, I also oppose the alcohol-filled parties that abound in many of the clubs. These organizations are supposed to be places for members to play cards, sip cocktails, and chat―not places for members to throw dangerous bacchanals. As it is now, final clubs have both liquor and somewhere to drink it, and that is what gives them their public influence.
Many students have bemoaned the lack of social spaces that gives the final clubs their inordinate power; these people would spend their time better lobbying the state of Massachusetts to lower the drinking age to 18, which would substantially undermine the clubs’ hold on the social scene and return them to what they once were.
The drinking age is the root of this problem, and lowering it is the surest way to forestall further harm from predatory final club parties. In the meantime, the University ought to stop its grandstanding and acknowledge that the path it has chosen leads straight to the Star Chamber.
Liam M. Warner ’20, a Crimson Editorial writer, lives in Weld Hall.