Dean's Letter on Final Clubs

This is the full text of a letter released by the Dean of Student yesterday.

The final clubs became independent of Harvard in December, 1984, when the College pressed them to adhere to the nondiscrimination policies that apply to all recognized student organizations, and the clubs preferred to remain single-sex rather than allowing women to become members. A few fraternities and other social clubs have operated in a similar way, outside of the control of Harvard College but with Harvard students as members. Two clubs have gone out of business in recent years, but none has allowed women to become members.

During the past several years we have seen a disturbing increase in the reports of inappropriate behavior occurring at various final clubs. We have made continuous efforts, through conversations with the inter-club council (graduate board) and through discipline of individual students, to address the problems, with mixed results. Because the problems appear to persist, we have decided to issue occasional reports identifying some of the more serious allegations brought to our attention. We do so primarily as a caution to students who may be considering joining or visiting a club. We also hope that these reports may spur the clubs in question to act more responsibly.

The following events were reported to us as having taken place at the final clubs during the calendar year of 1996:

* At a final club event, a freshman was given a great deal of hard liquor. When he became too drunk, he was thrown out of the club. He passed out on the street, and was found by an acquaintance (another student), who half-carried him back to the Yard. Once in the Yard, the drunken student tried to attack his acquaintance.

* Late this fall, many Senior Tutors heard of disturbances in the Houses due to students who became drunk while welcoming new members into some of the clubs.

* College officers have been confidentially consulted on more than one occasion this year by women who reported that they were sexually harassed while in certain clubs.

* A parent submitted a complaint regarding her son's treatment during an initiation into a club including underage drinking and the requirement to run through the Yard nude in December.

* A high-school student who was being recruited by the football team became drunk at a final club and was seriously injured in a fight.

* A faculty member saw young men being forced to run until at least one member of the group vomited. He was permitted to sit for a few minutes and then was required to run again. It was suspected, but is not certain, that this was an action by a final club.

* The Dean of Students received a complaint about lewd sexual acts performed by hired women at a final club's Senior Dinner last spring.

* One club has more than once been reported to us to be the scene of drug deals.

These incidents present a disturbing pattern of conduct that puts participating students at substantial physical and legal risk. We must, therefore, warn students who attend club-sponsored events that they may be endangering themselves and running the risk of injury. The College will not hesitate to bring illegal activities in final clubs to the attention of police.

Moreover, we wish to remind the community that through their policies and actions the clubs have shown little respect for decency and for the principles of the Colleges, including the equal rights of women.

We continue to believe that the abuse of alcohol and the serving of minors are the causes of many disciplinary problems. We once again remind the graduate officers to the clubs of their own legal responsibility for the operation of the clubs, and call on each club to adopt the measures we have recommended in the past:

* Supervision of the clubs by adult stewards answerable to the graduate officers should be provided whenever club buildings are open.

* Bonded bartenders should be used at any club event at which alcoholic beverages are served.

Although we have no control over the activities of the clubs, we continue to urge them to elect women members and to take the steps necessary to provide a safe and respectful environment for the students.

--Archie C. Epps, Dean of Students