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Female Undergraduates Form New Social Organization

The Seneca shuns `final club' label, seeks space, funds

By Vasugi V. Ganeshananthan, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Just as Radcliffe loses its college status and more and more final clubs close their doors to female guests, a new organization for Harvard's female undergraduates has emerged.

The Seneca, which currently has 19 members, promises to provide women with increased social and support networks on campus.

"Some people feel that Harvard has been developed by men, and that institutions [developed by men] are still around, even if Harvard refuses to recognize that," said Julia M. Butler '01, a member of the organization.

The idea for the Seneca originally came from a male final club that wanted a sister organization, Butler said. When that plan fell through, the women involved in the venture decided to form a club of their own.

The Seneca, named for the women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, N.Y. in 1848, has been gaining new members since December.

According to Butler, when members spoke to the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) in late March and inquired about the possibility of a sponsorship from the group, they were told that because the organization would be selective and purely social in nature, they could not be affiliated with RCAA.

The group has not approached Harvard for recognition because the College does not officially recognize single-sex organizations such as the eight all-male final clubs, the one all-female final club, and the fraternities and sororities currently on campus.

Kirstin E. Butler '01 (no relation to Julia) said the group is not the female equivalent of a male final club.

"Final clubs are that construct, social and elite," Kirstin Butler said. "We wanted to help the entire female population...[The name] signifies women's advancement."

The group's members said their first priority is acquiring property. The Seneca's already established real estate committee has been exploring the possibility of purchasing property near the Square while the financial committee is exploring fundraising options and potential costs.

The group anticipates that a suitable space will cost $1.5 to $2 million.

But Julia Butler said she is certain the group will either purchase or rent a space bythe fall.

While one of the group's original goals was tobetter publicize the opportunities available forwomen at Radcliffe, after the announcement of themerger of the two institutions, the club's goalshave become more general. Members said theyenvision their club serving as a place formeetings, community discussion, speakers, forumsand social interaction.

Although the group is still in its primaryplanning stages, members said the club would havean open application process rather than a"punch"--the initiation method used by male finalclubs.

"We'll have very different interests asindividual members, but our common interest willbe in improving women's life at Harvard," KirstinButler said.

The issue of dues remains to be decided--JuliaButler said it would depend on how much the groupmanages to fundraise from other sources. Today thegroup will mail out a fundraising letter to thesecretaries of the Harvard and Radcliffe alumniassociations, in addition to various other sourcesthey know through personal connections.

Seneca member Alexandra B. Seru '01 said theSeneca would serve as the network for forthcominggenerations.

"We're going to end up being the network forgenerations below us," Seru said.

Referring to "the interclub network" of malefinal clubs, they said they recently havecontacted the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS),sororities and the female final club, the Bee, tobegin forming similar relationships.

To further its goal of social interaction, thegroup will hold parties once it has a space of itsown.

"One of the problems we have with social lifehere is that parties must end after 1 a.m. in thedorms, and we didn't want to have to deal withrules of that sort," Julia Butler said.Parties at the club will be open, Julia Butlersaid.

"We wouldn't turn people away," she said.

"Next fall, there will be this outlet thatpeople could look into. We hope five other groupsof girls do this," she added.

Kaitlin S. McGaw '00, who is a member of bothRUS and the Coalition Against Sexual Violence,said she did not understand why the group wouldhave an application process.

"If they want to try to form a women'scommunity, then that's an interesting idea.... Butapplications to that? That doesn't make sense,"McGaw said

While one of the group's original goals was tobetter publicize the opportunities available forwomen at Radcliffe, after the announcement of themerger of the two institutions, the club's goalshave become more general. Members said theyenvision their club serving as a place formeetings, community discussion, speakers, forumsand social interaction.

Although the group is still in its primaryplanning stages, members said the club would havean open application process rather than a"punch"--the initiation method used by male finalclubs.

"We'll have very different interests asindividual members, but our common interest willbe in improving women's life at Harvard," KirstinButler said.

The issue of dues remains to be decided--JuliaButler said it would depend on how much the groupmanages to fundraise from other sources. Today thegroup will mail out a fundraising letter to thesecretaries of the Harvard and Radcliffe alumniassociations, in addition to various other sourcesthey know through personal connections.

Seneca member Alexandra B. Seru '01 said theSeneca would serve as the network for forthcominggenerations.

"We're going to end up being the network forgenerations below us," Seru said.

Referring to "the interclub network" of malefinal clubs, they said they recently havecontacted the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS),sororities and the female final club, the Bee, tobegin forming similar relationships.

To further its goal of social interaction, thegroup will hold parties once it has a space of itsown.

"One of the problems we have with social lifehere is that parties must end after 1 a.m. in thedorms, and we didn't want to have to deal withrules of that sort," Julia Butler said.Parties at the club will be open, Julia Butlersaid.

"We wouldn't turn people away," she said.

"Next fall, there will be this outlet thatpeople could look into. We hope five other groupsof girls do this," she added.

Kaitlin S. McGaw '00, who is a member of bothRUS and the Coalition Against Sexual Violence,said she did not understand why the group wouldhave an application process.

"If they want to try to form a women'scommunity, then that's an interesting idea.... Butapplications to that? That doesn't make sense,"McGaw said

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