"I WOULDN'T join any club that would have me as a member," my father used to tell me.
I never fully understood the meaning of that Groucho Marx quip until I arrived at Harvard, where there really are clubs that won't have me as a member.
As a non-legacy, non-Aryan, non-millionaire Crimson writer, I suppose I don't have much of a chance of getting punched by one of Harvard's unaffiliated final clubs. But I don't mind being excluded from the Porcellian or the Fly. There's no one there I want to talk to, anyway.
There's another discriminatory and destructive institution that still has ties to Harvard. Its regular patrons include top Harvard administrators and professors. It's the Faculty Club, and I can't join it.
That irks me.
THE CLUB, touted in its own promotional literature as "More than an elegant building, more than fine dining, more than special events," is indeed more than all those things. It is a self-described "private club." It does not admit students as members. It therefore creates division in what should be a community of scholars.
Harvard touts its stellar, accessible faculty to prospective students. Indeed, many professors do hold office hours or accept an occasional lunch invitation from a student. But for the most part, they dine in the posh club where "in winter the fire in the fireplace creates a warm setting for relaxed conversation while in all seasons museum art enlivens the walls." No bothersome students to deal with there.
This separation puts a damper on genuine and informal student-faculty relationships. At my high school, the headmaster and teachers waited in line with students in the dining hall and often are lunch with the students. They certainly were not pampered in a private club, and probably would have felt uncomfortable if they were.
IF YOU ARE a student and have never been inside The Club, go check it out. Not only will you discover some of the most elegant and cleanest spaces at Harvard, but you will also make the faculty acutely uncomfortable.
"Waiter, there's a student in my Faculty Club," they seem to be thinking.
As a visitor to the Faculty Club, you will also get to see the printed menu at the entrance to the main dining room. The "special dinner menu" for this week featured "carpaccio of veal--thin slices of cured veal served on a sauce prepared with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, onions, parmesan cheese, and capers." As an appetizer.
Also described in mouth-watering detail are mussel soup, a chef's salad with pheasant mousse, grilled yellowfin tuna, venison, walnut crusted chicken stuffed with brie cheese, stuffed veal medallions and "salmon and spinach in a potato jacket."
Not exactly baked fish pizziola.
Even if a student wanted to pay $26 for the aforementioned feast, he or she would have to be a guest at the members-only club. Unlike the Harvard Club of Boston, which has special rates for undergraduates who wish to dine with the high and mighty, The Club, according to general manager Heinrich Lutjens, "is for faculty. This is not for students."
Why should students be forced to fend for themselves in college dining halls while their teachers dine in style?
"I haven't given any thought to that, as a matter of fact," Lutjens said.
The Club used to order some of its basic food items through Harvard Dining Services, which was at least an efficient way of allocating resources. Not any more. The two bureaucracies are now completely separate. Lutjens has never even visited an undergraduate dining hall in his six months on the job.
"I haven't had time to go there yet," he said.
THE FACULTY CLUB should be abolished. The building should be turned into a women's center or a student center or best of all, a student-faculty center where the twin pillars of the university could learn from each other.