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Last Thursday night, nearly every Harvard undergraduate received an invitation under his or her door.
But rather than arriving in an envelope emblazoned with the seal of one of Harvard’s final clubs, the paper flier invited each student to join them in “NOT joining a Final Club” and “NOT attending Final Club parties.”
The invitation was an advertisement for a meeting Friday to discuss the role of final clubs on campus.
Coordinated by a group of seven undergraduates who say they aim to make Harvard’s social scene safer and more inclusive, the unnamed anti-final club campaign wants administrators to do more to revitalize student life outside the clubs.
The coordinators also said they hope to move students to action, asking them not to join final clubs or attend their parties.
Additionally, the group plans to solicit stories from those who have had experiences with final clubs, as well as from those who shy away from them.
“We want to give voice to those people on that side of things, making sure that people who are against final clubs or choose not to go to final clubs don’t feel isolated or alone,” said Tara D. Venkatraman ’11, one of the initiative’s coordinators.
The groups’ opposition to final clubs is rooted in what they called the exclusive and unsafe nature of clubs that, they said, lack transparency.
The punch process, the parties, and the gender limits all contribute to the clubs’ exclusive nature, said Sabrina G. Lee ’12, another organizer.
“The frats, anyone can rush. The Seneca, anyone can apply to. Final clubs, you have to be punched to join,” co-organizer Camille S. Owens ’13 said.
Delphic Club member Alexander E. Chi ’11 said that the parties restrict their guest lists because of the limited space available inside the clubs.
But a final club leader, who was granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said in an e-mail that there should be a “change in the social scene.”
“I do not believe that final clubs should be one of the only social spaces for undergraduates, and the University should begin to look more into having more accessible and supervised parties,” the leader wrote.
Although the final club campaign encourages students not to attend final club parties, coordinators said they do not seek to prevent partying—rather, they aim to create more inclusive options for student socializing.
“A criticism we’ve all already received from handing out that flier is we’re anti-fun and hate parties,” Owens said.
“We want to have more parties,” Seth A. Pearce ’12 said, continuing Owens’ thought. “We want to have more room parties that everyone can go to.”
But in order to expand the available social space on campus, the group is looking for help from College administrators.
Members of the initiative said they hope to cooperate with the College administration to accomplish concrete goals: expanding access to House space like Junior and Senior Common Rooms for parties, increasing funding for student groups to rent off-campus social space like the Democracy Center, and providing more information about final clubs to freshmen and sophomores during orientations.
The idea for the initiative emerged over a year ago from a conversation between Venkatraman, Pearce, and Lee. Most of the group’s seven coordinators already knew each other from high school, House life, or the Freshman Urban Program.
The group’s organizers say they know that in the past, anti-final-club campaigns have formed and fizzled, but they say their specific goals and open advertising will help them achieve their ends.
“We don’t really see ourselves being a student group that each term has a discussion about this and moves in a circle,” Owens said. “We don’t want to see this around forever. We want to see our goals accomplished.”
—Staff writer Danielle J. Kolin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at email@example.com.
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