Last night, the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) hosted a passionate discussion on all-male final clubs that touched on a wide range of issues from the risk of sexual violence in the clubs to the possible admittance of women to their ranks.
The meeting, held in the Adams small dining room, drew about 40 students, including four of the roughly 15 invited final club members, several fraternity brothers, three officers from the new Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (OSAPR), representatives from Harvard Men Against Rape and other concerned members of the community.
During the discussion, which extended beyond its planned hour, students shared their experiences with and frustrations about the clubs, raising many questions but reaching few conclusions.
RUS Vice President Rebeccah G. Watson ’04 opened the meeting with the topics of exclusivity and student space and their relation to final clubs. She questioned whether the exclusivity of the clubs contributed to their appeal.
Some suggested that an open punch process would make the clubs more accessible.
But still, others expressed concern about the safety of women who visit these all-male institutions.
OSAPR Education Specialist Heather Wilson, who declared she is not “anti-final club,” said that while there is no data specific to the final clubs, research on all-male social groups, especially in situations when alcohol is present, indicate an increased risk of sexual assault.
Rudi G. Patitucci ’04, one of the four final club members who attended the meeting, pointed out that these potentially dangerous situations are not confined to final clubs.
“We shouldn’t just look to room parties as a safe haven opposed to final clubs,” he said.
Another final club member, John M. Barkett ’04, asked the group whether the inclusion of women into final clubs would render meetings on this topic unnecessary.
Barkett said that there have been discussions among some club members about admitting women into their organizations.
“I think a lot of guys in final clubs would like this idea of going co-ed. If you took a new sophomore class and made all these clubs co-ed, the same people would want to join them. It’s not like anyone would not join these clubs because they are co-ed,” Barkett said after the meeting.
Patitucci said although each club would approach this matter differently, he also envisions that clubs will be co-ed in the future.
“I think at least a couple clubs by the time my kids can go here will be co-ed,” Patitucci said.
Toussaint G. Losier ’04, an inactive member of the Spee Club, said he saw the topics of sexual violence, male-dominated institutions and social spaces for women as intertwined.