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Shocking as it may seem, the College is considering some form of official recognition of single-sex organizations, including the notorious, all-male Final Clubs. A recent College committee considered a proposal that would create a two-tiered system for recognizing student groups, giving single-sex organizations limited recognition and limited access to Harvard resources. While many may not agree with the exclusive nature of single-sex groups, many students stand to benefit from this change. We encourage the College to adopt the new system.
Although it appears that the committee’s discussion centered around Final Clubs, these archaic secret societies are likely to be the least affected by the changes. The new proposal, which would give “independent” groups limited access to space and resources, will likely seem unappealing to Final Clubs, which have plenty of space, money, and social capital. Ever since the University chose to no longer recognize Final Clubs, the private institutions have managed on their own, relying on the generosity of their alumni—and Harvard’s lack of social alternatives—to keep them open. They appear to be satisfied with their illegitimate student group status, not to mention the lack of paternal University oversight.
So who stands to gain from this new system? Female social clubs and other exclusive groups would probably reap the most significant benefits. Fraternities and sororities would similarly gain from University recognition, though the proposal currently does not allow nationally-affiliated groups limited recognition—a stipulation that we hope the University reconsiders. These groups, which currently have very limited access to space and funds, would thus profit most from the new system.
If the College were to give single-sex organizations limited recognition, the entire campus would be poised to benefit. Take, for example, the controversy that emerged when the Seneca tried to use University space to hold a panel about women in tenure. While the Seneca took part in organizing the event, the panel was open to the entire Harvard community. Undoubtedly, this was a worthwhile panel, beneficial to the entire student body. Limited recognition for groups like the Seneca would allow them access to resources and space for creating more events and opportunities for the entire campus.
While there is a great deal of good that could come from creating a two-tiered system, it is also important that the new system differentiate between potential funding for different types of groups. By no means should the new system provide single-sex organizations equal access to resources and funding as other non-exclusive student organizations. And, considering the inordinate number of groups that already exist, the two-tiered system would allow the College to make needed distinctions between student groups. Certain groups deserve more access to resources than others based on qualifications other than just the gender of their members, and the new system would give the University an opportunity to make these assessments and fund groups accordingly.
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