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Final Clubs Face Scrutiny

Under Pressure, Some Clubs Go Co-Ed

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana leads a discussion with students about balancing academics and extracurriculars at a town hall in the Phillips Brooks House Parlor on Wednesday evening.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana leads a discussion with students about balancing academics and extracurriculars at a town hall in the Phillips Brooks House Parlor on Wednesday evening.
By Crimson News Staff

The school’s unrecognized social organizations saw a year of unprecedented scrutiny and tumult, with two formerly male final clubs adding women to their ranks and top administrators becoming increasingly vocal about the clubs’ membership policies and place in Harvard’s history.

In March, one of the groups that would eventually integrate women, the Spee Club, became the subject of controversy and condemnation after members sent a party invitation that many deemed sexist. Just months later in September, however, the club drew praise for becoming the first of the all-male final clubs to invite women to participate in “punch,” the annual process in which students compete for club membership. The move was widely praised, though some were less laudatory.

Although he frequently met behind closed doors with final club leaders, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana refused to comment on what role, if any, he had in the Spee’s decision to integrate women or whether Harvard would consider prohibiting undergraduate affiliation with unrecognized social clubs. Students, meanwhile, hosted multiple off-record meetings about the stratification of the College’s social scene.

Not all of the College’s unrecognized social organizations responded positively to administrative pressures. A graduate member of the A.D. Club circulated a memo in late October outlining a potential legal defense. A vast majority of undergraduate members of the A.D. Club, meanwhile, signed a letter to graduate board leaders indicating that they “strongly” opposed membership changes.

About a month after the Spee’s announcement, the undergraduate leadership of the Fox Club announced to their graduate board that they would be extending membership to a pre-selected group of women, claiming that Harvard had “forced [their] hand.”

The Fox decision created a rift between supporters and opponents of integration, prompting a special meeting of graduate members in November. The divisions in the graduate board, along with a controversial party, prompted the shuttering of the club’s JFK street house. Meanwhile, the newly-minted female members of the Fox currently enjoy only “provisional” membership, pending confirmation by a graduate board vote in the spring, according to internal club correspondence.

{timeline num=9 date1='March 5' event1="The Spee Club apologizes for circulating a controversial party invitation that some students and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana later criticized."
date2='March 30' event2="\“The College continues to support the idea that…single-gendered organizations are not appropriate for the College,\” Khurana says in a feature on the College’s precarious relationship with final clubs."

date3='May' event3="Following a year of administrative scrutiny, the Fox club adopts a no guest policy in an effort to reduce liability."

date4='September 8' event4="University President Drew G. Faust puts final clubs on notice, saying in an interview that she is weighing options to address issues of exclusivity, sexual assault, and alcohol use that she associated with the clubs."

date5='Mid-September' event5="In a historic move, The Spee Club invites some women to its annual punch process."

date6='October 25' event6="Officers of the Fox Club announce in an email to prospective initiates that they have invited a group of women to join the organization."

date7='Late October' event7="In a letter to graduate members, Fox club officers say they feel that Harvard had \“forced\” their hand when it came to admitting women."

date8='Mid-November' event8="Undergraduates of the A.D. club send a letter to graduate board leaders indicating that a vast majority opposed any changes to membership policies."

date9='November' event9="The Fox’s graduate board shuts down the club following a controversial party there and more prolonged pushback about undergraduate officers’ move to admit women into the organization. Dozens of internal correspondences show deep rifts between club members over the co-ed decision."}

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