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Clubs Limit Guests to Curb Risks

By Victoria C. Hallett, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

After almost two decades at the center of Harvard's party scene four of the eight all-male final clubs have returned to their gentlemen's club roots since January, using stricter guest policies to end the era of open parties.

And, though the clubs have always had a reputation as hangouts for the wealthy and privileged, it appears that concerns about money--the financial liability involved in serving alcohol at open parties--have forced the clubs to make these changes.

MIT first-year Scott M. Krueger's death from alcohol poisoning at a fraternity house in 1997, after which the fraternity was charged with manslaughter, has made the danger to Harvard clubs more clear.

After the MIT incident, final club members say, their graduate boards became more wary of open party policies knowing that they could be held responsible--both financially and criminally--if a similar incident were to occur at one of the clubs.

And, while three clubs still maintain more lax guest policies, final club members and graduate board members say they may not stay that way for long.

The Dominoes Fall

On Jan. 20 the A.D. club made the first move.

The club's graduate board, after some consultation with undergraduate members, decided the liability involved in remaining open to the public was too high.

They closed the club's doors to non-members with the exception of a handful of special events.

Before this change, only the Porcellian club, the oldest of the institutions, had comparable restrictions. The Porcellian does not allow open parties, and non-members are permitted only to enter a small "bicycle room" on the club's ground floor.

But once the A.D. made the switch, the dominoes began to fall.

The next week the Owl club implemented a trial closure for the month of February while debating whether it should follow suit.

After three weeks of experimenting with thechange, the Owl decided to extend the ban onnon-members indefinitely.

Influenced by the other clubs' moves, thePhoenix S.K. club also decided to bar non-membersin a policy effective April 1.

The Delphic club, while not barring non-memberscompletely, tightened its guest policies so thatmembers could invite only two guests--only one ofwhom could be male. Members say the Delphic hasalso committed to stricter enforcement.

Two other clubs, the Spee and the Fox, haveboth had general meetings to discuss similarchanges in the last month. Neither has yetannounced a policy change.

Fox members say they decided not to changetheir guest policies because they are alreadytighter than other clubs.'

Only the vestiges of the pre-closed-door systemremain: clubs that have barred nonmembers willcontinue to hold long-standing annual events thatare open to nonmembers, such as the Owl luau.

`A Social Provider'

In early January, before any policy changes,both A.D. President John "Jake" H. Heller and '99and Delphic President William L. Burke '99 toldThe Crimson that since the early 1980s, finalclubs have been hosting more and more openparties.

They said this resulted in a shifting socialrole for the clubs. They were moving away fromtheir original purpose to an atmosphere morereminiscent of Animal House.

"We bear the social responsibilities of frats,"Heller said. "We are losing our identity asanything more than a social provider."

Heller and Burke blamed randomization and thedecline of House communities for a campus socialscene that drives students to look for otheroptions.

"Ten years ago, you didn't have people knockingon your doors," Burke said.

Heller now says such concerns were important inmembers' conversations with A.D. graduate boardmembers.

"When the graduate board and under graduateboard get together, one thing we continuallydiscuss is what the A.D. and final clubs are allabout," Heller says. "We looked at where we wereheading, and we were going away from what we weremeant to be."

He attributes much of the A.D.'s problem tocrowd control issues.

"If at two in the morning there weren't 400kids standing outside, there wouldn't be aproblem," Heller says.

Less Money, More Problems

Krueger's death and the ensuing court case seemto have grabbed the graduate boards' attention.

"These [policy changes] were taking placebefore this year started. Personally, I think alot of it was triggered with the Scott Kruegerincident," Owl Librarian Jonathan Powers '00 says."It blew up again after the legal decision washanded down this year."

Prosecutors charged the entire Phi Gamma Deltafraternity chapter at which Krueger was a pledgewith manslaughter but did not hold thefraternity's officers responsible. The fraternitydisbanded to avoid prosecution.

Powers says the Krueger incident raised theclubs' fears that they would be unable to pay thecourt costs or the monetary judgment that wouldresult from a similar claim at Harvard.

"We just don't have enough money to deal withthe exorbitant legal fees," Powers said.

According to Powers, property taxes for a clubcan run $30,000 to $40,000 a year, which isroughly equivalent to the dues clubs receive fromundergraduate members.

Powers said that although the Owl has asubstantial endowment, the club runs a deficitbecause it cannot cover the $100,000 annualoperating costs. These expenses include thegeneral upkeep of the buildings as well as thecosts for throwing parties and punch events.

Other clubs have supplemented their income byleasing property. The Fly, for example, leases theformer D.U. club building at 45 Dunster St. toNantucket Nectars.

But clubs are not generally as rich as peopleassume says. Later-Club Council President Rev.Douglas W. Sears '69.

"There's this great myth that they're wealthy,"Sears says. "Basically, these organizations breakeven. They're not these great reservoirs ofwealth.

The difference between a club's operatingexpenses and the money it takes in through dues ismade up out of the pockets of graduatemembers--who consequently were worried about thedirection of the clubs, Powers says.

"Financially, the clubs are run by thegrads--and they're the ones held both criminallyand financially liable should something happen,"Powers says.

If a Krueger incident repeated itself atHarvard. both Powers and Sears say undergraduateand graduate board officers would probably be heldfinancially and legally responsible, and neithergroup has the money to handle such claims.

A Question of Liability

Under Massachusetts liquor liability laws, ahost may be held responsible for misconduct orhazardous behavior by guests to whom alcohol wasserved.

Sears says that, while some clubs are formallyincorporated and others are unincorporatedassociations, someone wishing to sue over an eventthat happened at a club could bring theundergraduate and graduate presidents to court--andpossibly win.

Sears says none of the clubs have licenses toserve liquor--technically, individual membersbring the alcohol themselves--but this detaillikely would not shield club members form legalaction.

Administrators say they have recognized theunfavorable position the graduate boards havefound themselves in and have emphasized the risksof maintaining open door policies.

"I am sure that some alumni officers havebecome unwilling to run the risk that a drunkenstudent or guest might fall down a flight ofstairs and cause financial ruin to the alumni andtheir families," Dean of the College Harry R.Lewis '68 wrote in an e-mail message.

According to Lewis, Parties thrown by finalclubs "have been the source of a number ofproblems."

Although the College administration does notofficially recognize the final clubs due to theirgender-exclusive membership policies, it maintainsan interest in the functions they organize, Lewiswrote.

Specifically, College officials say thegraduate boards of the final clubs are puttingthemselves at risk by inviting nonmembers into theclubs for events at which alcohol is provided toguests.

"The College administration has no control overany of [the final clubs]," Lewis wrote, "but wehave been pointing out to the alumni officers [ofthe final clubs] their responsibilities andpotential liabilities."

Associate Dean for the House System Thomas A.Dingman '67 agrees that the burden ofresponsibility may have caused the clubs graduateboards to finally take steps towards limiting orbanning club guests.

"Some of the graduate boards have realizedthat, gee, we can be liable," he says.

"They may well have realized that the liabilitythat controls the ascertaining of age andprovision of alcohol has not been so great," headds.

Beyond the liability and financial issues,Heller says The Crimson and other campuspublications are responsible for much of theclubs' negative public persona and have led totheir current shrinking status.

He cites opinion pieces in The Crimson, like arecent one relating a story of a 16-year-old girlin the club, as sources of misconceptions of thefinal clubs.

When graduates read these letters, they becamemore disturbed by the current state of the clubs,he says.

Searching for Solutions

Heller says the graduate boards of all of theclubs have been talking about measures toalleviate risk and protect history and traditionfor a while.

The A.D. had even experimented with otherpossibilities, Heller says.

"We've tried a large number of things," hesays. "We've tried limiting guests. It all comesback in our face."

Sears says he spoke to Dean of Students ArchieC. Epps III numerous times about getting Harvardpolice officers to the clubs to regulate crowds.Because the College refuses to recognize theclubs, Epps would not grant the request.

According to Epps, a College policy allowsHarvard Police to respond to emergency calls atfinal clubs, but the police may not be put onregular detail outside the clubs.

Another alternative to closing club doors thathas been considered in the past is making clubsco-ed, which would prevent them form violatingCollege gender equity policies.

"In various clubs there have always been peoplewho want to let in women, but usually the peoplepushing the issue just want notoriety for beingthe one who pushed for women as members," Searssays.

In September 1993, the undergraduate members ofthe Fly voted unanimously to admit women. Thegraduate boards agreed with their decision, butthen asked that they repeat the vote before the1994 fall punch season.

And in the second vote, the measure failed.

A few months ago, the issue found new life inthe Phoenix S.K. club when undergraduates held avote to admit women.

According to former Phoenix member Gregory R.Halpern '99, the vote was close but did not pass.

"It didn't do as well as we hoped it would,"Halpern says. "A few people gave impassioned pleasthat, 'I don't want this to get in the way of usgetting trashed together."

Halpern was so disgusted by the behavior andopinions of his fellow members, he decided hisonly recourse was to leave the club.

"Morally people agreed with me and that's why Idropped out," Halpern says.

This type of answer to a problem with all malesocial groups is not one unique to Harvard.

The recent decision at Dartmouth College, whichhas ended the school's popular single-sex Greeksystem, has prompted student protest and revealeda divided campus opinion of what a healthy sociallife is.

Dingman says he supports the Dartmouthadministration's decision to eliminate allgender-exclusive organizations. However, hecautions, simply eradicating the institutionalsexism of fraternities and sororities may notsolve a deeper, psychological problem.

The lack of a House system at Dartmouth isthought by some to have contributed to thestrength of the Greek system there. According tosome College officials, Harvard's residentialsituations, by comparison, should foster closeHouse communities and eliminate a need fororganizations like final clubs.

"I think Harvard is very fortunate to be ableto have an absolute rule against single sexorganizations," Lewis wrote. "I don't think that'srealistic everywhere."

Dingman says he believes the all-male finalclubs contribute to an undesirable campusenvironment in which opportunities that exist formen don't exist for women.

"I don't know how women can create the same,given how expensive real estate is," he adds.

Closing the Clubs

Sears says he supports the actions of thegraduate boards of the A.D., Owl. Phoenix andDelphic, and sees the changes as a return to theoriginal purpose of the clubs, a place for friendsto gather.

"By having only members in there, it is likelythey will be most prudently managed," Sears says."[Other students] need to find another place toparty."

Though the clubs recognize the impact they mayhave on College social life by closing clubs tonon-members, they see it as the administration'sresponsibility to deal with the matter.

Heller says the A.D. and the other clubs havehad to shoulder the College's social burden fortoo long.

"There was nothing to gain from [opening ourparties to the community], and we were onlyputting ourselves at risk because HarvardUniversity is failing to pick up their end of thedeal, Neller says."

Graduate members are also looking to theCollege to do something about students' late nightsocial needs.

Now that the clubs are changing their policies,Sears says the College will finally have to answerto the students.

"It'll be interesting to see how HarvardCollege responds to filling the void that theclubs may leave if current restrictions continue,"Sears says. "What are they going to do?"

The Future

Currently, only three of the eight all malefinal clubs have shut their doors to late-nightvisitors. But once the Phoenix S.K. joins thecrowd in April and the other clubs more seriouslyenforce their policies, the late-night final cluboption may become entirely obsolete.

When the A.D. changed its policy to bannon-members, Owl President Andrew D. Duffell '99said neither his graduate board president nor theundergraduate members were interested in followingsuit.

But one week late, the Owl implemented a trialchange and has since extended the ban on guestsindefinitely.

"It's probably easier for it to happen once oneclub did it. It's direction all the clubs havebeen moving in," Owl member Ryan G. Schaffer '00says.

And the other clubs' recent moves have proventhe response may not end until all of the clubsalter their policies.

Owl member Powers says the changes wereinevitable and have been in the works for over ayear.

"Eventually all clubs may be pressured intodoing it. They don't want to be left out in thecold," he says.

Heller agrees that the clubs that have upheldtheir current policies will ultimately change.

Without the A.D., Owl and Phoenix as socialalternatives, the other clubs will have to handlemore students than ever before. Even if the clubsare able to deal with their usual crowds, theextra influx could prove disastrous, Heller says.

"For some [clubs,] their risks and interestsare different. Once a lot of these have closeddown, the burden will shift to them," Heller says."At some point it may be more than they can bear.

After three weeks of experimenting with thechange, the Owl decided to extend the ban onnon-members indefinitely.

Influenced by the other clubs' moves, thePhoenix S.K. club also decided to bar non-membersin a policy effective April 1.

The Delphic club, while not barring non-memberscompletely, tightened its guest policies so thatmembers could invite only two guests--only one ofwhom could be male. Members say the Delphic hasalso committed to stricter enforcement.

Two other clubs, the Spee and the Fox, haveboth had general meetings to discuss similarchanges in the last month. Neither has yetannounced a policy change.

Fox members say they decided not to changetheir guest policies because they are alreadytighter than other clubs.'

Only the vestiges of the pre-closed-door systemremain: clubs that have barred nonmembers willcontinue to hold long-standing annual events thatare open to nonmembers, such as the Owl luau.

`A Social Provider'

In early January, before any policy changes,both A.D. President John "Jake" H. Heller and '99and Delphic President William L. Burke '99 toldThe Crimson that since the early 1980s, finalclubs have been hosting more and more openparties.

They said this resulted in a shifting socialrole for the clubs. They were moving away fromtheir original purpose to an atmosphere morereminiscent of Animal House.

"We bear the social responsibilities of frats,"Heller said. "We are losing our identity asanything more than a social provider."

Heller and Burke blamed randomization and thedecline of House communities for a campus socialscene that drives students to look for otheroptions.

"Ten years ago, you didn't have people knockingon your doors," Burke said.

Heller now says such concerns were important inmembers' conversations with A.D. graduate boardmembers.

"When the graduate board and under graduateboard get together, one thing we continuallydiscuss is what the A.D. and final clubs are allabout," Heller says. "We looked at where we wereheading, and we were going away from what we weremeant to be."

He attributes much of the A.D.'s problem tocrowd control issues.

"If at two in the morning there weren't 400kids standing outside, there wouldn't be aproblem," Heller says.

Less Money, More Problems

Krueger's death and the ensuing court case seemto have grabbed the graduate boards' attention.

"These [policy changes] were taking placebefore this year started. Personally, I think alot of it was triggered with the Scott Kruegerincident," Owl Librarian Jonathan Powers '00 says."It blew up again after the legal decision washanded down this year."

Prosecutors charged the entire Phi Gamma Deltafraternity chapter at which Krueger was a pledgewith manslaughter but did not hold thefraternity's officers responsible. The fraternitydisbanded to avoid prosecution.

Powers says the Krueger incident raised theclubs' fears that they would be unable to pay thecourt costs or the monetary judgment that wouldresult from a similar claim at Harvard.

"We just don't have enough money to deal withthe exorbitant legal fees," Powers said.

According to Powers, property taxes for a clubcan run $30,000 to $40,000 a year, which isroughly equivalent to the dues clubs receive fromundergraduate members.

Powers said that although the Owl has asubstantial endowment, the club runs a deficitbecause it cannot cover the $100,000 annualoperating costs. These expenses include thegeneral upkeep of the buildings as well as thecosts for throwing parties and punch events.

Other clubs have supplemented their income byleasing property. The Fly, for example, leases theformer D.U. club building at 45 Dunster St. toNantucket Nectars.

But clubs are not generally as rich as peopleassume says. Later-Club Council President Rev.Douglas W. Sears '69.

"There's this great myth that they're wealthy,"Sears says. "Basically, these organizations breakeven. They're not these great reservoirs ofwealth.

The difference between a club's operatingexpenses and the money it takes in through dues ismade up out of the pockets of graduatemembers--who consequently were worried about thedirection of the clubs, Powers says.

"Financially, the clubs are run by thegrads--and they're the ones held both criminallyand financially liable should something happen,"Powers says.

If a Krueger incident repeated itself atHarvard. both Powers and Sears say undergraduateand graduate board officers would probably be heldfinancially and legally responsible, and neithergroup has the money to handle such claims.

A Question of Liability

Under Massachusetts liquor liability laws, ahost may be held responsible for misconduct orhazardous behavior by guests to whom alcohol wasserved.

Sears says that, while some clubs are formallyincorporated and others are unincorporatedassociations, someone wishing to sue over an eventthat happened at a club could bring theundergraduate and graduate presidents to court--andpossibly win.

Sears says none of the clubs have licenses toserve liquor--technically, individual membersbring the alcohol themselves--but this detaillikely would not shield club members form legalaction.

Administrators say they have recognized theunfavorable position the graduate boards havefound themselves in and have emphasized the risksof maintaining open door policies.

"I am sure that some alumni officers havebecome unwilling to run the risk that a drunkenstudent or guest might fall down a flight ofstairs and cause financial ruin to the alumni andtheir families," Dean of the College Harry R.Lewis '68 wrote in an e-mail message.

According to Lewis, Parties thrown by finalclubs "have been the source of a number ofproblems."

Although the College administration does notofficially recognize the final clubs due to theirgender-exclusive membership policies, it maintainsan interest in the functions they organize, Lewiswrote.

Specifically, College officials say thegraduate boards of the final clubs are puttingthemselves at risk by inviting nonmembers into theclubs for events at which alcohol is provided toguests.

"The College administration has no control overany of [the final clubs]," Lewis wrote, "but wehave been pointing out to the alumni officers [ofthe final clubs] their responsibilities andpotential liabilities."

Associate Dean for the House System Thomas A.Dingman '67 agrees that the burden ofresponsibility may have caused the clubs graduateboards to finally take steps towards limiting orbanning club guests.

"Some of the graduate boards have realizedthat, gee, we can be liable," he says.

"They may well have realized that the liabilitythat controls the ascertaining of age andprovision of alcohol has not been so great," headds.

Beyond the liability and financial issues,Heller says The Crimson and other campuspublications are responsible for much of theclubs' negative public persona and have led totheir current shrinking status.

He cites opinion pieces in The Crimson, like arecent one relating a story of a 16-year-old girlin the club, as sources of misconceptions of thefinal clubs.

When graduates read these letters, they becamemore disturbed by the current state of the clubs,he says.

Searching for Solutions

Heller says the graduate boards of all of theclubs have been talking about measures toalleviate risk and protect history and traditionfor a while.

The A.D. had even experimented with otherpossibilities, Heller says.

"We've tried a large number of things," hesays. "We've tried limiting guests. It all comesback in our face."

Sears says he spoke to Dean of Students ArchieC. Epps III numerous times about getting Harvardpolice officers to the clubs to regulate crowds.Because the College refuses to recognize theclubs, Epps would not grant the request.

According to Epps, a College policy allowsHarvard Police to respond to emergency calls atfinal clubs, but the police may not be put onregular detail outside the clubs.

Another alternative to closing club doors thathas been considered in the past is making clubsco-ed, which would prevent them form violatingCollege gender equity policies.

"In various clubs there have always been peoplewho want to let in women, but usually the peoplepushing the issue just want notoriety for beingthe one who pushed for women as members," Searssays.

In September 1993, the undergraduate members ofthe Fly voted unanimously to admit women. Thegraduate boards agreed with their decision, butthen asked that they repeat the vote before the1994 fall punch season.

And in the second vote, the measure failed.

A few months ago, the issue found new life inthe Phoenix S.K. club when undergraduates held avote to admit women.

According to former Phoenix member Gregory R.Halpern '99, the vote was close but did not pass.

"It didn't do as well as we hoped it would,"Halpern says. "A few people gave impassioned pleasthat, 'I don't want this to get in the way of usgetting trashed together."

Halpern was so disgusted by the behavior andopinions of his fellow members, he decided hisonly recourse was to leave the club.

"Morally people agreed with me and that's why Idropped out," Halpern says.

This type of answer to a problem with all malesocial groups is not one unique to Harvard.

The recent decision at Dartmouth College, whichhas ended the school's popular single-sex Greeksystem, has prompted student protest and revealeda divided campus opinion of what a healthy sociallife is.

Dingman says he supports the Dartmouthadministration's decision to eliminate allgender-exclusive organizations. However, hecautions, simply eradicating the institutionalsexism of fraternities and sororities may notsolve a deeper, psychological problem.

The lack of a House system at Dartmouth isthought by some to have contributed to thestrength of the Greek system there. According tosome College officials, Harvard's residentialsituations, by comparison, should foster closeHouse communities and eliminate a need fororganizations like final clubs.

"I think Harvard is very fortunate to be ableto have an absolute rule against single sexorganizations," Lewis wrote. "I don't think that'srealistic everywhere."

Dingman says he believes the all-male finalclubs contribute to an undesirable campusenvironment in which opportunities that exist formen don't exist for women.

"I don't know how women can create the same,given how expensive real estate is," he adds.

Closing the Clubs

Sears says he supports the actions of thegraduate boards of the A.D., Owl. Phoenix andDelphic, and sees the changes as a return to theoriginal purpose of the clubs, a place for friendsto gather.

"By having only members in there, it is likelythey will be most prudently managed," Sears says."[Other students] need to find another place toparty."

Though the clubs recognize the impact they mayhave on College social life by closing clubs tonon-members, they see it as the administration'sresponsibility to deal with the matter.

Heller says the A.D. and the other clubs havehad to shoulder the College's social burden fortoo long.

"There was nothing to gain from [opening ourparties to the community], and we were onlyputting ourselves at risk because HarvardUniversity is failing to pick up their end of thedeal, Neller says."

Graduate members are also looking to theCollege to do something about students' late nightsocial needs.

Now that the clubs are changing their policies,Sears says the College will finally have to answerto the students.

"It'll be interesting to see how HarvardCollege responds to filling the void that theclubs may leave if current restrictions continue,"Sears says. "What are they going to do?"

The Future

Currently, only three of the eight all malefinal clubs have shut their doors to late-nightvisitors. But once the Phoenix S.K. joins thecrowd in April and the other clubs more seriouslyenforce their policies, the late-night final cluboption may become entirely obsolete.

When the A.D. changed its policy to bannon-members, Owl President Andrew D. Duffell '99said neither his graduate board president nor theundergraduate members were interested in followingsuit.

But one week late, the Owl implemented a trialchange and has since extended the ban on guestsindefinitely.

"It's probably easier for it to happen once oneclub did it. It's direction all the clubs havebeen moving in," Owl member Ryan G. Schaffer '00says.

And the other clubs' recent moves have proventhe response may not end until all of the clubsalter their policies.

Owl member Powers says the changes wereinevitable and have been in the works for over ayear.

"Eventually all clubs may be pressured intodoing it. They don't want to be left out in thecold," he says.

Heller agrees that the clubs that have upheldtheir current policies will ultimately change.

Without the A.D., Owl and Phoenix as socialalternatives, the other clubs will have to handlemore students than ever before. Even if the clubsare able to deal with their usual crowds, theextra influx could prove disastrous, Heller says.

"For some [clubs,] their risks and interestsare different. Once a lot of these have closeddown, the burden will shift to them," Heller says."At some point it may be more than they can bear.

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