Future of Social Life Debated by College

Lewis calls role of final clubs overstated

Since final clubs began formally barring non-members in January, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 has made a point of saying he is not the campus cruise director--and therefore has little duty to create new social outlets as these unofficial ones close off.

But, in the wake of four final clubs' decisions to tighten guest policies, it seems that the administration has shaped the state of the campus social scene far more directly than Lewis' claim implies.

Lewis says he began raising concerns about the clubs' liability shortly after he became dean in 1996.

According to the head of the Inter-Club Council (ICC), liability concerns ultimately prompted the A.D., Owl and Phoenix S.K. clubs to close their doors and the Delphic club to restrict guest access.

Now, with club members predicting more closings eventually, students are asking where Harvard goes from here.

Lewis maintains that the campus will be unaffected because final clubs were not the backbone of Harvard social life that some make them out to be.

Nevertheless, without the final club option, partygoers may have to turn to the Houses--where students say an inappropriately early curfew and red tape can sometimes hamper social events.

Administration Warned Clubs

Undergraduate and graduate club members attribute the changes in guest policy to the fear of a liability case like the one of Scott M. Krueger.

Krueger was an MIT first-year who died after a night of drinking at a fraternity house in 1997. Criminal charges were brought against the fraternity, but it disbanded to avoid prosecution.

However, Lewis says he and other administrators began raising the issue of final club liability long before that.

"I believe we started warning the undergraduateand graduate officers of their potentialliabilities as early as the spring of my firstyear as dean," Lewis wrote in an e-mail messageyesterday.

And ICC President Rev. Douglas W. Sears'69 saysthat although the administration has long beencommunicating its wish that the clubs either shutdown or admit women, the recent final club actionsare not in response to these requests.

"We have refrained from lecturing Harvard onwhat it should be doing. Harvard has not refrainedfrom lecturing us," Sears says. "It's none ofHarvard's business."

Sears says the clubs' role as campus partycenters evolved from their original functionbecause Harvard had done an inadequate job ofcreating other social outlets for students.