Harvard Rents to Clubs Despite Civil Rights Law

In possible conflict with anti-discrimination laws, Harvard has continued to rent space to final clubs since a 1984 decision to cut ties with the organizations.

Several exclusive clubs have used the Holyoke Center penthouse for social functions, including one last Thursday, University officials said yesterday.

Harvard disassociated itself from the nine all male clubs in accordance with Title IX of the 1972 Education Act, which prohibits federally funded institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex.

Daniel Steiner '54, Harvard's vice president and general counsel, refused to comment yesterday, but student leaders reacted fiercely.

"It seems like they're flying in the face of a policy decision," said Linda S. Garber '87, executive secretary of the Radcliffe Union of Students.


HRE Link

The A.D. Club and possibly two others rented the Holyoke Center room through Harvard Real Estate (HRE), a firm that manages Harvard's property holdings, although HRE has a policy of renting only to University affiliates.

HRE may stop renting to the clubs, according to Dianne M. Dyslin, the official in charge of renting the property.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, who learned yesterday of the parties, said, "I think it would be wise for them to reconsider the policy in light of the University's decision [to disassociate from the final clubs]."

Title IX requires that Harvard provide no "significant assistance" to discriminatory organizations, said Theresa Cusick, attorney for the Washington-based Project on Equal Employment Rights.

"It could be a significant assistance," Cusick said. "It might take a court to decide that."

Renting to the clubs would violate Title IX if federal funds helped build Holyoke Center, added Ellen Vargyas of the National Women's Law Center.


This Thursday the A.D. Club held a "punching" party for prospective members at Holyoke Center, Dyslan said, adding that "a few of the final clubs have used the room consistently."

A.D. President Gregory M. Dayton '87 said he did not know of the University's affiliate-only policy. The Owl Club had also held parties in the function room, he said.

Owl Club President Todd R. Watkins '87 refused to comment.

HRE rents the room to clubs for $218, Dyslin said, though the fee "might be a little low compared to [market prices]," said Cambridge real estate entrepreneur O'Neal Ingram.

Before severing ties in 1984, Harvard provided the clubs with private alumni lists for fundraising, centrex phone service and steam heat. No lawsuit ever challenged these links.

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