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Harvard should revoke the Hasty Pudding Club’s official recognition, better use its space

By The CRIMSON Staff

For more than two centuries, the Hasty Pudding Club has been an elite social organization, but since the Harvard Planning and Real Estate Office bought its traditional clubhouse two years ago, it has misguidedly been a recognized student group.

To use the now Harvard-owned building for the club’s social functions, the Hasty Pudding Club must be a recognized student group and, therefore, fully comply with Harvard’s anti-discrimination policy. In its punch this semester, however, the club failed to make a good faith effort to open its door to all undergraduates. No publicity ever reached the ears, eyes or inboxes of most students—almost all those who arrived at the first event were privately invited by Pudding members. The group’s behavior during its selection process—or “punch” as the Pudding still calls it—is an unfortunate departure from the publicity of the punch during its past three semesters as a recognized student group.

Part of the blame falls with Harvard’s anti-discrimination policy; it is unclear what a club must do—if anything—in order to demonstrate its openness. When organizations are blatantly discriminatory, the University has committed itself to correcting the problem. In 1984, it revoked the charters of all the Final Clubs; as recently as the fall, the University rebuffed the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship for a discriminatory clause in its constitution, which required all club officers to take an oath upholding several tenets of Christianity.

In certain cases, clubs need to be exclusive by basing induction on merit. But unlike an a cappella group, the Hasty Pudding does not select members based on special talents. Indeed, Andrea L. Olshan ’02, the club’s former president, accurately described the Pudding as “the first purely social organization to be accepted as a student group.” And that’s what it is: a once-secret society premised on ad hoc partying. Such organizations have a right to exist outside the auspices of Harvard’s administration, but there is no place for them as official campus groups, enjoying space in Harvard-owned buildings.

Even if the Pudding had a more worthy purpose than socializing, there is little chance of redemption for it as a recognized student group. The concept of an “open punch” is inherently flawed. Whereas recognized criteria such as vocal ability can be applied to objectively judge would-be Kroks or Pitches, there is no non-discriminatory criteria to judge one socially aspirant student against another. An “open punch” will never have any substantive effect on the Pudding’s membership; legacies of the club, and students who hail from wealthy backgrounds, will always enjoy a higher probability of membership than the typical undergraduate. Even if the Pudding were to revert back to its ostensibly “open punch” of semesters past, it will remain an exclusionary club.

The sheer lack of club space on campus makes the controversy more than a live-and-let-live dilemma. It is wholly inappropriate to allot a discriminatory group a disproportionate amount of University space. Better use can, and should, be made of the club’s Holyoke Street home.

The Pudding’s supposed commitment to diversity is dubious at best and self-propagating lip service at worst. Two years ago, the concept of an “open punch” for an inherently exclusive social club was laughable. And upon judging what can only be labeled a “closed punch” this semester, the Pudding’s ability to adhere to Harvard’s non-discrimination policy is fantasy.

Dissent: A Place for Social Clubs

Not one of the Hasty Pudding Club’s actions violates the spirit or letter of the College’s rules. No other student organization would be subject to criticism for “failing” to put up posters offering membership in the spring, sending e-mail to prospective members or using University space. The Staff has come down unfairly on the Pudding for operating as a social club; but groups such as Harvard Lovers of the Garden State, the Four Square Society, and the Anime Society can claim no more academic purpose than the Pudding.

In addition, the Staff should remember that the Pudding receives no direct College funding, while last year these groups received $550, $400 and $190, respectively. Until the Hasty Pudding is shown to be in violation of University rules, there is no reason that it or any other organization should lose official College recognition.

—Nicholas F.B. Smyth ’05

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