Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana sharply condemned a controversial party invitation that circulated among undergraduates over email this week, writing in an email to the student body that its contents—which the Spee Club sent to advertise a Saturday party—were “offensive, crude, and sexist.”
On Thursday, the Spee, an all-male final club located on Mount Auburn Street, issued an apology for circulating the invitation, which included an image titled “Playbear” and linked to a since-removed YouTube video that featured multiple clips of women wearing underwear and models walking on a runway.
The invitation drew criticism from some students who said its depiction of women was objectifying. Vince T. Cooper ’15, whose email account sent the invitation on Wednesday, emailed recipients on Thursday night apologizing for what he called a “genuine lapse in judgment regarding Saturday's invitation.” Cooper later wrote in an email to The Crimson that the Spee hopes to hold an open forum with female final club members to discuss concerns raised by the invitation.
In an email to undergraduates Friday, Khurana did not identify the Spee by name, instead referencing an “all-male unrecognized student group.” He wrote that he received an image of the invitation and said that it did not align with the College’s values.
“I am troubled by the lack of judgment shown in organizing and promoting this event, which runs counter to the values we hold as a community,” he wrote. “I am concerned as a member of the Harvard community because sexism and bigotry are antithetical to our fundamental values as an institution.”
Khurana urged students to send him feedback on the invitation over email or through the Twitter hashtag “#crimsonrespect.” At least one administrator’s Twitter account, assistant dean of student life for public service Gene A. Corbin, sent out a statement using the hashtag.
Undergraduate Council President Ava Nasrollahzadeh ’16 commended Khurana for addressing a topic she said administrators do not typically openly discuss. UC representative Brett M. Biebelberg ’16 said Khurana’s email appeared to reflect the demands of undergraduates who voiced concerns over administrators’ response to several hundred students’ receipt of emailed death threats last semester.
“This email from Dean Khurana reflects that pressure from some students [for administrators] to take note of something like this, and not just take note of it, but take a position,” Biebelberg said.
Through Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven, Khurana declined to comment beyond his email.
—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
Spee Club Cancels Party After Controversy
Sexism We Can't BearIs the Spee simply unaware that Harvard students are already talking about gender issues on a daily basis?
In Historic Move, Spee Club Invites Women To Punch
Harvard Can’t Achieve Safety and Equity for Women If It Ignores Their VoicesIf Harvard wishes to support students of all genders, it must encourage all final clubs—both male and female—to arrive at a solution that safeguards female leadership and networks, and allow final clubs the time required to do so.
A.D. Begins First ‘Open Punch’ with Schmoozing and Soft Drinks