To conclude our series on final clubs, we thought we’d take a quick little tour through the history of the clubs’ diversity. “We pride ourselves on the diversity of our club,” one member of the Phoenix wrote to us in an e-mailed statement. “And we define diversity to include race, socio-economic status, concentration, extra-curriculars, etc.” He added that the Phoenix has “some members from royal families and others whose parents are unemployed.”
Make what you will of that, but what did diversity in the clubs look like 50 years ago? Or 100 years ago? Here’s a timeline of selected events in the final clubs’ particular histories of exclusivity and inclusivity.
1912-1918 – No Jews are admitted to The Porcellian, the A.D., the Fly, the Spee, and the Delphic during these years, according to Jerome Karabel’s “The Chosen: the Hidden History of Admission at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.”
1938 – The Spee Club accepts John F. Kennedy ’40 in an era when many of the Final Clubs do not accept Catholics.
1965 – The Spee Club becomes the first final club to admit an African-American, Frank M. Snowden ’68. In response, William C. Coleman III ’66, president of the Delphic Club, told The Crimson, “I don't want to say that this is a precedent that all the clubs at Harvard should follow, or that the Delphic Club is definitely going to take in a Negro, or a Chinese, or whatever. I think as far as the clubs are concerned within the context of Harvard University, this is a good thing. It is an indication that clubs are not as exclusive—in any sense, not just racially—as people have tended to think they are."
1983 – The Porcellian Club admits its first black member, William Batts ’Jr. ’86.
1983 – Deval L. Patrick ’78, the first African-American governor of Massachusetts, claims to have quit the Fly Club.
1984 – The University severs its ties to the final clubs when they refuse to admit women. This meant that the clubs would be denied access to Harvard’s steam heat, alumni mailing lists, sophomore housing lists, and central telephone service.
1986 – One third of Final Club presidents are Jewish, according to Morton and Phyllis Keller’s “Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University.”
1987 – Lisa J. Schkolnick ’88 files a complaint against the Fly Club for unlawful discrimination. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination states that it lacks the jurisdiction to order the club to integrate.
2004 – The Spee Club elects its first African-American president, Randall J. Winston ’04-’05
2006 – Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56 severs his ties with the Owl Club. This move comes after conservatives criticize him for speaking out against then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito, Jr.’s involvement in the conservative-leaning Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which had (in Kennedy’s words) been formed “to resist the growing influx of female, African American, Hispanic and even disabled students who were changing the face of Princeton ‘as you knew it.’”
2010 – A group of seven students launches an initiative to combat what they perceive as the Final Clubs’ monopoly on Harvard’s social space.
Photo courtesy of Will007/Wikipedia.