The Spee Club issued an apology on Thursday night after it circulated a controversial invitation promoting a party scheduled for Saturday night.
The invitation, which students received over email early Wednesday, advertised a “pajama party” to be held Saturday at the all-male final club's building on Mount Auburn Street. The email included both an image, which appeared to be drawn, and a link to a video hosted on YouTube.
The drawing, titled “Playbear,” depicted a bear wearing a robe, pants, and hat, with its arm around a woman dressed in tights and a sleeveless top. The email linked to a video that included multiple clips of women wearing underwear and male and female models walking a runway, as well as a clip from the song “Stay the Night.” The video, which was previously public on YouTube, was made private and then removed Thursday evening, after it prompted criticism from students and other social club members.
“We would like to apologize for a genuine lapse in judgment regarding Saturday's invitation,” Vince T. Cooper ’15, whose email account sent the invitation, wrote to recipients of the email on Thursday night. “We are sorry that the invitation gave the wrong impression of both our party and our club and made guests feel uncomfortable. It was inappropriate, and we hope that you all know you are encouraged to wear whatever attire you would like.”
In an email to The Crimson, Cooper reiterated his apology and wrote that the Spee hopes to use the incident to engage in broader dialogue with women on campus throughout the semester.
“We sent the wrong message about our party and our club with this invitation, but the issues that have been made more salient as a result are much bigger than this party,” Cooper wrote. “We hope to work with the female final clubs and other women on campus to provide some sort of open forum for them to voice their concerns so we can continue to make our space a comfortable, fun environment.”
The invitation sparked backlash from some students who received it. Savanna M. Arral ’16, who was forwarded the invitation, said she believes its portrayal of women was objectifying.
“It’s the same issues that people have about a lot of things in the final club world, with girls being hypersexualized as props or tools for men to use,” Arral said, adding that she does not plan on attending the party. In his apology email, Cooper indicated that the party will go on as scheduled on Saturday.
Members of Our Harvard Can Do Better, a student group that advocates for changes to Harvard’s handling of sexual assault, also criticized the invitation in a statement, writing that its tone reflects “deep power imbalances.”
Dhruv P. Goyal ’16, the vice president of the Undergraduate Council, said early Friday morning he saw the drawing in the invitation but not the video. Goyal credited Cooper for making an apology and committing to further conversation.
“On behalf of the Council, we respect that Vince has made that statement, and we appreciate the fact that he is willing to have a dialogue with concerned stakeholders about the appropriateness of that email,” Goyal said.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.