Fly Club's Privateness Questioned

A document in which the all-male Fly Club claims a connection to Harvard could aid a year-old gender discrimination complaint against the club, the lawyer representing the person who filed the complaint said yesterday.

The complaint, submitted to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), hinges on the question of whether the clubs are public enough to fall under state anti-discrimination laws. MCAD has not yet ruled, whether it has jurisdiction over the case.

In materials filed with MCAD the Fly Club has said that it is a small private club with no ties to the University. As such, the club does not fall under MCAD's jurisdiction, the club's lawyers have argued.

But in a document filed with the Cambridge tax assessors' office in fiscal 1987, the club claimed its parking lot should be taxed as residential property because Harvard students who live in nearby dorms park in the lot.

"This property is used for parking cars by some of the resident undergraduates at Harvard and it is accessory to land incidental to their habitation," read the request, which the city denied.


Kevin G. Baker, the lawyer representing complainant Lisa J. Schkolnick '88, said the document may cast doubt on the club's claim to be a private group. He said that although he has not yet seen the document, it appears to contradict evidence submitted by the club to MCAD, evidence Baker said was "factually erroneous."

"They contend [in the tax brief] that there is a more elaborate relationship with the University than they do to the MCAD," said Baker.

If MCAD decides that the club is a publicaccommodation, then the state body could force itto admit women. Massachusetts law prohibitsdiscrimination by gender or other means in "publicaccommodations", such as restaurants, hotels andmost clubs.

Harvard officially ended its association withthe final clubs four years ago, cutting off theirCentrex phones and University steam heat. But somesay that ties persist. The Fly Club, for example,takes care of the University's portion of a gardenlocated behind its building.

The Fly Club's parking lot is a similar benefitof membership, Baker said, adding that thedocument filed with the assessors may imply thatothers also park in the lot. But Fly Clubpresident Joel S. Post '89 said that the parkinglot is restricted to members, club employees and"one spot is kept open for people passingthrough."

"It's certainly not public use of a privatefacility," he said.

Post said the club had no members from Lowell,at least two members from Adams and possibly onemember from Quincy. These three houses best goalong the document's statement that the parkinglot is accessory to land incidental to thehabitation of some undergraduates.

Another issue that could aid Schkolnick's sidein the complaint, Baker said, is the fact that theCity of Cambridge taxes the nine all-male finalclubs--including the Fly Club and its parkinglot--at a commercial rate.

The city's classsification of the club ascommercial indicates that MCAD should probablyalso consider it to be public, Baker said.

"The fact that the [City of] Cambridgedetermined that they [the clubs] are commercialproperty may have some bearing on how public orprivate they are for public accommodationpurposes," said Baker. He said that if the city'stax assessors use criteria similar to MCAD's toclassify a group as commercial, then the Fly Clubshould be considered public.

The city considers the club at the higher ratebecause of a clause in the Massachusetts generallaws stating that fraternal organizations'property is commercial. Residential property, mustbe "used or held for human habitation containingone or more dwelling units including roominghouses and used for living, sleeping, cooking andeating on a non-transient basis."

Charles J. Hoen, asssistant chief of the stateDepartment of Revenue's Bureau of LocalAssessment, said decisions on fraternal groups areleft to the discretion of the local assessors. Hesaid a club would be classified as mixed-use if ithad apartments above it.

Cambridge considers some fraternalorganizations, like those at MIT, to beresidential property