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Why We Won’t Punch

A Porcellian Club punch invitation burning in front of the club's building.
A Porcellian Club punch invitation burning in front of the club's building.
By Nathaniel B. Horwitz and Sam H. Koppelman

We came to Harvard excited to punch a final club. We’d seen The Social Network, talked to students, and gotten the lowdown: Girls would bus in from across Boston to line up for our parties. Awesome.

The Spee punched us Thursday night. The Porcellian came next, followed by the Fly and the A.D. But instead of celebrating, we decided not to punch.

Sure, being in a final club comes with meaningful connections, close friends, and the chance to party with the Patriots. But should you join a group of predominantly white and privileged guys when you go to school with the most diverse and influential students in the world?

As fun as final clubs can be, they remain a microcosm of the socioeconomic and gender inequality that defines contemporary America, which is why politicians like Ted Kennedy and Deval Patrick severed their ties. The discourse around the clubs mirrors the nationwide discussions of systemic inequality that led to Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Feel the Bern.

After all, most of these clubs physically and symbolically divide our campus along racial, class, and gender lines. Even after years of diversifying (first adding Jews, then African Americans, and finally, in the case of the Spee, women), the clubs remain largely homogeneous and insular. Yet given the stringent dorm party rules enforced by the administration and the lack of other social spaces on campus, final clubs are one of the only places we—and hundreds of other students—actually enjoy going out.

We have three suggestions for the clubs: include women, match Harvard’s financial aid, and transition from an invite-only punch to an open first event. We also call on Dean Khurana and President Faust to match these efforts with an unofficial message to tutors and proctors: Do less.

These recommendations would expand the social scene, reduce sexual assault, and foster bonds between the clubs and the community to which they are inextricably linked. Forcing clubs to go members-only just further damages an already anemic party scene and promotes exclusivity.

Would the school rather have students with fake IDs on the rooftop of Felipe’s?

The Spee’s decision to include women and their policy of generous financial aid—which we learned about through conversations with members—certainly marks progress, and we were tempted to try and join. However, their punch process, like those of the other clubs, still perpetuates damaging exclusivity, because students can’t even try to join these clubs unless they are invited. Imagine if you couldn’t apply to Harvard unless you were chosen by the students who already go here. How would we reach the kids from high schools and countries that have never sent anyone here before—the kids who make this place special?

This is the essential difference between final clubs and other exclusive organizations like the Lampoon, the Advocate, and Harvard itself: For those institutions, admission is largely based on merit, and, unlike final clubs, anyone may attempt to join.

Some students argue that improving female final clubs is the solution, but as the Supreme Court has stated, separate organizations created for minority groups are inherently unequal. Female clubs have almost no property (limiting their ability to throw parties), a small alumni network, and hardly any impact on the campus social scene. This isn’t meaningful progress. Similarly, while more diverse and less exclusive than the clubs, Greek life at Harvard is not a panacea to our social scene. Frats and sororities are not exactly known for gender equality and inclusivity.

This lack of viable alternatives is why it’s so important that the administration provides students with additional places to let loose, and lessens their restrictions on the ones that already exist, as William F. Morris IV ’17 noted in The Crimson earlier this week.

Ultimately, the stigma and history of final clubs are less important than what the clubs are doing to change. And until all final clubs make their role in Harvard’s social scene more progressive—inviting women, offering financial aid, and altering the punch process—we refuse to join any of them.

If you, like us, enjoy good company and good parties, but care more about developing a better social scene than being in a club, we encourage you to forego punch this fall. If not, the first event is at the Spee at 76 Mount Auburn Street, starting 5 p.m. tonight.

There will be two free spots.

Nathaniel B. Horwitz ‘18, a Crimson editorial writer, and Sam H. Koppelman ‘18, a Crimson editorial executive, live in Leverett House.

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