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The Final Stretch

Four editors share their thoughts on punch season

By Piotr C. Brzezinski, Paul R. Katz, Matthew S. Meisel, and Ramya Parthasarathy


The Annotations section is meant to convey a smattering of impressions, written by Crimson editors, on a certain topic. Breadth, then, is crucial to avoid giving the illusion of a consensus. Annotations, in fact, are meant to disagree.

Yet the below impressions on final clubs are rather one-sided. There is no club member writing. One could make a point of questioning The Crimson’s diversity. But there are plenty of people associated with the clubs within the paper. Did we under-solicit? Six club members refused. One club had a no-press policy. Another felt that 200 words was inadequate to defend the clubs, a defense he felt compelled to make. Others did not give reasons.

A pity about the veil of silence. The clubs unnecessarily forfeit their representation when they refuse to speak.

—Sahil K. Mahtani ’08


As of two weeks ago, my position on final clubs was supremely clear. Although I’ve never seen the organizations as oppressive or dastardly, I’ve also never been a fan. Extending privilege to some while excluding others, the clubs make Harvard just that much less comfortable for some of the College’s students.

But when I unexpectedly got punched last week, my certainty crumbled. It’d be pretty cool, I suddenly found myself fantasizing, to have a mansion at my disposal. And something reliably raucous to do every weekend. And unparalleled job connections. Maybe final clubs weren’t so bad after all.

Or maybe I was deluding myself. I was beginning to think in the same self-justifying terms that have long reduced those within the circle of privilege to writing off—and to leaving unchanged—the minor injustices around them. I had astonished myself by my willingness to toss out principled objections for the sake of self-advancement. Could I really be so thoroughly spineless?

Ultimately, I chose not to take up the punch invitation. I won’t try to cast this as a particularly heroic act—obviously, it wasn’t. But my experience did convince me that principles and privileges don’t mesh well, and that temptation—in my world, at least—doesn’t tend toward the better of these two.

—Paul R. Katz ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, is a history and literature concentrator in Mather House.


I found myself, once again, in a crowded mass of well-dressed girls, huddled outside of a final club. Yet, this day, I donned my cute outfit (sans heels as we were instructed on the invitation), not to win the attention of boys, but to impress the club officers whose judgment sealed my fate.

Thrust into an environment that demanded we claw toward an exalted few, genuine interest was a major casualty. With name tags and routine attempts at small talk, we were asked questions about where we were from.

Responding with “Manhattan” prompted real interest and nostalgic talk of the city, the one they knew and loved. Any foreign (read: European) city evoked exchange about summer memories or family vacations. “California”—where I’m from—meant nothing if it did not refer to a wealthy Los Angeles suburb—where I’m not from. “Michigan” garnered nothing but a vacant nod and stare. The unfamiliar was simply uninteresting.

—Ramya Parthasarathy ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Winthrop House.


Setting aside the broader effect of final clubs on Harvard—dividing men into exclusive cliques and leaving women to seek the approval of male door guardians perverts the social atmosphere on campus—I’ll focus on the effect of clubs on their members.

Punches subject themselves to the whims of a social comp, a degrading process where they prostrate themselves before perceived social superiors, nakedly attempting to please others for acceptance. Seeing sophomores and juniors become pathetically dependent on social affirmation is a sad—albeit usually mercifully short-lived—sight.

Conversely, once they have become members, punches suddenly find that the world revolves around them (or, rather, “The Club”). Although there are exceptions, membership in an exclusive, privileged group breeds a sense of entitlement. Just like going to Harvard leaves graduates with notorious egos, many of the final club members I know emerge (consciously or not) from the punch process with an unwarranted sense of self-importance.

I honestly care very little about clubs either way, but I do care about my friends, and I hope that they go through this process fully aware of the likely consequences.

—Piotr C. Brzezinski ’07, a Crimson associate editorial chair, is a social studies concentrator in Winthrop House.


It was the same kind of pristine October day we’ve been enjoying for the past two weeks. Eighty-odd boys quietly mingled on the back patio of some ancient, enormous North Shore estate, dressed in suits at 10:30 in the morning. There wasn’t much to talk about, and it was far too early.

I stood in a long line for a drink. Realistically, there were two choices: orange juice and Rolling Rock. I asked the bartender for the beer. We sat for a buffet lunch. Two club members populated our table. More conversation about the weather. I stared downward as I nursed the prime rib. And after lunch, we changed clothes for tackle football on the lawn, or, if you preferred, croquet. I wandered over to the creek and wondered which direction it was flowing.

A week later, I learned the next event was scheduled the same night I had planned to attend a Halloween party with my friends. And before I realized that the next white envelope would not be arriving, the club and I had shaken hands and parted.

—Matthew S. Meisel ’07, a Crimson editorial chair, is a chemistry concentrator in Currier House.

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