UPDATED: August 29, 2016, at 1: 49 p.m.
University President Drew G. Faust redoubled her criticisms of Harvard’s all-male final clubs as exclusive, discriminatory, and inconsistent with the values of a liberal arts education, making the case for penalizing members of the social groups in a video for The Atlantic.
The video, titled “Why Campus Inclusion Matters” and filmed at the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival, features Faust discussing the College sanctions for members of single sex social organizations, namely final clubs, fraternities, and sororities. The sanctions, which will go into effect for the class of 2021, will bar members of the social organizations from holding extracurricular leadership positions and receiving College endorsements for post-graduate fellowships.
While the sanctions will apply to any unrecognized social organization with gender-exclusive membership, including female final clubs and sororities, Faust focused in the video on the all-male final clubs.
“When the drinking age was raised to 21, these clubs became places that students could gather to party, to drink illegally, and they became a kind of magnet for undergraduate social life, controlled by men, controlled by a rather exclusive group of men,” Faust said.
“A disportionate number of sexual assaults were happening in the final clubs, as well,” Faust continued—a trend that has persisted, according to the results of a 2015 University-wide survey on sexual assault. The survey found that 47 percent of female College seniors “participating in the Final Clubs”—including members of female final clubs and women who attended male final club events—said they had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact while at Harvard, the highest figure among student groups included in the survey.
The sanctions, announced at the end of last semester, have been widely criticized. Many alumni and undergraduate members of both all-male and all-female social groups have blasted the sanctions as administrative overreach into the private social lives of undergraduates.
Prominent ex-administrators including former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 and former University President Lawrence H. Summers have also publicly decried the new policies, while a group of 12 professors submitted a motion resolving “Harvard College shall not discriminate against students on the basis of organizations they join.”
Others, though, including Harvard Corporation senior fellow William F. Lee ’72 and Corporation treasurer Paul J. Finnegan ’75—as well as several athletic coaches—support the sanctions.
Faust, who has repeatedly castigated the final clubs, acknowledged criticisms in her video, but maintained that the all-male organizations should begin accepting women as members.
“There’s been criticism; I think people are resistant to change. The whole situation could be resolved in a second if these clubs admitted women,” Faust said. “That seems to me, in the 21st century, not a big ask.”
Since administrative pressure on the centuries-old organizations began under Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, some clubs have changed their membership policies. The Spee Club began accepting women as members last fall. The Fox Club accepted women as provisional members, though their future in the organizations remains uncertain. This summer,a graduate-member vote effectively reversed the undergraduates’ decision last year to admit women.
The Seneca, a women’s group, will now have a gender-neutral membership policy.
—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.