In the wake of all of Harvard’s historically female final clubs and sororities closing or going co-ed following the implementation of penalities against single-gender groups, several undergraduates said they are looking to fill the void left behind by organizing female-oriented programming near campus themselves.
The Muse, a new "female-focused" undergraduate group, is looking to fill in “a lack of female supportive environments” at Harvard by offering self-growth and social programming for female-identifying College students, its undergraduate founders said in an interview.
“The Muse came out of this space where we were really feeling just frustrated on campus not only with sanctions, but just the lack of female supportive environments and spaces on campus,” Meredith E. Pong ’20, a member of the Muse Board, said. “We really think that there needs to be space on this campus where females feel supported and just a space, honestly, to hang out and relax.”
The sanctions, which took effect with the Class of 2021, bar members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from holding campus leadership positions, varsity team athletic captaincies, and from receiving the College’s endorsement for prestigious fellowships.
Students involved with Muse, which was founded by Pong, Ana M. De Bernardo ’20 and Ellie A. Corbus ’20, are hoping the group can become recognized by the College as an independent student group.
According to De Bernardo, Muse organizers prefer to describe their activities as putting on an “event series,” rather than participating in a club.
“We are branding this as an event series, and not a club that necessitates membership because we are trying to foster a place of inclusion and belonging without the competitive aspect,” De Bernardo said. “It makes more sense to label it as that.”
“We really also just wanted it to not be competitive in anyway: have no comp, have no dues, no punch process, no rush or any things like that to really be inclusive of everyone. Because at Harvard, we feel that so many organizations make you go through a long comp process, or are exclusive in some way of punching,” Pong added. “We just really wanted to create a space that was really open to everyone and welcoming.”
Thus far, the Muse has held one on-campus event featuring outside sponsors Forty Winks, Girls Who Code, and Bulletin.
Attendees to the opening event — which occurred at the end of September — received free personalized dorm decor and giveaways. The event also featured a table of sticky notes where students could write what they felt “was lacking from their social experience” at Harvard.
At least 120 people stopped by the inaugural event, according to the organizers.
“Since it was so serious a prompt, we thought people maybe people won’t opt in, but actually it was the opposite, and people were really willing to share their experiences and thoughts,” Pong said, referring to the sticky note table.
Ali Kriegsman, the COO of women’s fashion chain Bulletin, wrote in a statement that her company was “honored” to support Muse’s event.
“Bulletin decided to partner with The Muse because we’re absolutely baffled by the lack of female-friendly and female-focused spaces on Harvard's campus,” Kriegsman wrote. “It is absolutely critical that women and female-identifying students have a welcoming, safe, owned space they can take up without judgment. We are honored to partner with The Muse and help create - even if momentarily - the space these students deserve.”
In the future, Muse organizers hope to continue hosting female-oriented events focused on self-care and empowerment, including free bra fittings at Forty Winks in Harvard Square next month.
—Staff Writer Andrea M. Bossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @bossi147
—Staff writer Ashley M. Cooper can be reached at email@example.com.