At this time of the year finals clubs are choosing their new members, and so the clubs are a common topic of conversation on campus. With many students punching, or wishing they were punching, the eight all-male organizations on campus, there is no denying the popularity of these groups.
However, final clubs are gender-divided and must enact wide-scale changes in order to remain a positive part of Harvard life. Most importantly, final clubs and their director boards adamantly stand against allowing female membership—except at parties. Although not equally true of every male final club, many host late-night parties on Friday and Saturday nights, outside of which underclassmen women line up in revealing clothing to be allowed to enter. Their male friends are left behind, by choice or by a door closed in the face. This raises the question: Why are women largely allowed into these spaces late at night? This system makes it seem as if women are useful insofar as they are sexual objects and begets a negative party environment.
We implore students: Do not punch male final clubs until each one makes a commitment to break down barriers and support gender inclusivity. We ask that women refuse to accept this norm and instead party in an environment wherein they would be routinely accepted as equals.
Although the exclusion of women is the biggest problem with the clubs, the punch process is also concerning in that it is an elitist approach to networking. Although once students are invited to punch they all go through the same selection process, the fact is that you probably will not be punched unless one of the club’s few members knows you from high school, a sports team, or an extracurricular. The lack of an open selection process separates the final clubs from other groups on campus, and prevents them from being meritocratic, by any standard. We understand the logistical difficulties that would be involved in inviting anyone to punch. However, clubs should consider that they are an important part of Harvard’s history and tradition, and to effectively lock students out of membership because of their pre-College conditions is antithetical to what the Harvard experience represents.
Sadly, the rising popularity of final clubs has been at least partly propagated by Harvard's ineptly designed alcohol policies. Specifically, Harvard's strictly enforced prohibition of alcohol in freshman dorms ultimately pushes younger students to find private areas to drink. To those who do not know upperclassmen on campus it makes sense to go to the parties where it is widely acceptable, for women, to show up as a total stranger—male final clubs. Final clubs provide an opportunity for freshmen girls to drink copious amounts without supervision or accountability, a dangerous scene that is compounded by the lack of official connection to Harvard. Moreover, male freshmen see their female friends clamoring to get into the clubs, increasing their desire to get punched the next year, and the cycle of social power and unsafe open parties continues.
There is another side to this story, though. As a student body, we should aspire to more than the corrosive status quo wherein final clubs are allowed to dominate social life through nice houses and money. Why are students pleading to get into a private party where they know no one inside? Why must the Owl or the Phoenix be the go-to destination of the night rather than your linkmate’s birthday party? The bottom line is that final clubs are merely groups of guys with a building on campus. We, also, should ask more from our Saturday nights.