Last month, United States Representative Elise M. Stefanik ’06 (R-N.Y.) criticized Harvard’s sanctions against single-gender social organizations during a committee hearing on the College Affordability Act. Calling the sanctions discriminatory, she spoke up in support of a proposed amendment to the legislation that would legally require “non-retaliation against students of single-sex social organizations.”
It puzzles us that the College Affordability Act was deemed an appropriate time to discuss these sanctions. The wealth harbored in final clubs and their extended networks would seem to have almost nothing in common with the topic of reduced college admissions. And using legislative mechanisms to protect that wealth would seem contradictory at best to the legislation’s broader effort to make a college education more universally accessible.
In light of that tension, we are concerned that other factors beyond the amendment’s sheer merit were behind its insertion into the proposed legislation. Given that final clubs have flexed their political muscle in seeking protection from the government before, this amendment seems to be evidence of their continued use of wealth and entrenched power to engage yet again in special-interest lobbying for the purpose of promoting their own interests.
To be sure, as we have written previously, the sanctions are not perfect — particularly in terms of the clarity of their motivations and implementation. The administration’s cited motives have shifted between sexual misconduct to gender exclusivity over the years. And though we appreciate Dean of the College Rakesh Kharana’s letter to the editor published Monday, it leaves unresolved questions we’ve had about the effectiveness of enforcement. Finally, we’ve continued to worry that the University has done a disservice to single-gender organizations offering membership to historically marginalized groups throughout this process of sanctioning. But despite this criticism, we still believe this conversation should be held in Cambridge, not Washington.
We find it almost ironic that, having lost the battle to protect clubs on campus and in the administration, final clubs have now taken their case to the U.S. House of Representatives. The fact that these predominantly wealthy so-called club “gentlemen” may well have managed to commandeer the College Affordability Act through plausible lobbying only speaks more loudly to the massive political and economic power these groups still command.
University policy cannot be dictated by the national political mite of its most wealthy former members, especially not on a scale beyond the scope of the institution itself. All colleges across the U.S. should have the ability to decide campus matters such as these for themselves without the intervention of Congress. These discussions require a deep awareness of specific campus circumstances, dynamics, and structures of power. Moreover, they require engagement from multiple groups within a campus community, not merely the ones with the resources to mount a lobbying effort.
The U.S. House of Representatives cannot be a clubhouse; final club alumni need to pack their bags and leave the capital on this matter.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.