Final Club Grad Members Lobby Congress to Cancel Sanctions

Capitol Building
The United States Capitol.
Some graduate members of Harvard’s final clubs are lobbying Congress to push for an amendment to Republican-backed legislation that would prevent Harvard from enforcing its penalties on members of single-gender social groups, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Representative Virginia A. Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, recently proposed a sweeping new higher education law—titled the PROSPER Act—that would alter current financial aid programs as well as expand the routes to a college degree, among other measures. In December, the PROSPER act successfully passed the House’s education committee.

Final club alumni, though, are focused on just one section of the act: an amendment that seeks to forbid universities that have “a policy allowing for the official recognition of single-sex student organizations” from penalizing members of the groups. Because Harvard does not have a policy officially recognizing final clubs and Greek organizations, it is unlikely the legislation in its current form would apply to the College.

The final club graduates hope to change that. The alumni want to re-work the language of the law so it endangers the College’s social group penalties, which currently bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations—starting with the Class of 2021—from campus leadership positions, varsity athletic team captaincies, and from receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships.

As part of this push, some final club alumni attended a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago to raise money for Foxx, according to the Wall Street Journal. Law firm Arnold & Porter hosted the fundraiser, the Journal reported.

Richard T. Porteus Jr. ’78, graduate president of the Fly Club and an attendee at last week’s meeting, told the Journal he supports Foxx’s legislation because it would preserve the “free association” of Harvard students.

“We would like to see free speech and free association protected,” he said.

The Porcellian Club is also involved in the effort; some members recently sent emails asking other members to give $350 to $500 to support Foxx, the Journal reported.

The Crimson reported in Dec. 2017 that Representative Elise Stefanik ’06, a New York Republican and a Harvard alumna, has been advocating for the amendment related to single-gender social groups. Stefanik—through a spokesperson—said at the time she had been working on this legislation with colleagues for several months.

"Congresswoman Stefanik believes all schools should respect students' right to freely associate," Stefanik's communications director Tom Flanagin wrote in an emailed statement in December. "This amendment is not specific to Harvard and will protect Constitutional liberties across the country."

University President Drew G. Faust is also paying attention to the PROSPER Act, though she is focused more on provisions relating to student aid and college affordability. In a recent interview, Faust said she finds “a lot of elements” in the act “concerning.”

It is unclear what provisions will end up in the final version of the bill, which has yet to come before the full House or Senate for a vote.

“There’s a lot of stuff being put into this bill that may or may not survive, so we’d like to see how it unfolds,” Faust said.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.