The College’s Committee on Student Life, in conjunction with the Undergraduate Council, recently expressed interest in pursuing “audits” of student organizations’ comp processes, citing a need to examine club requirements that may negatively impact campus culture. While we understand certain officially recognized and affiliated campus organizations may have requirements that could be construed as “detrimental,” we do not believe that a comp audit would be the best way to accomplish and further goals of student inclusion at Harvard.
The administration has shown, in attempting to regulate social organizations on campus, that its actions of achieving diversity and inclusion have largely been unsuccessful. For instance, while we support the College’s penalties for single-gender social organizations, we believe they were and are imperfect. Today, many final clubs exist in much the same form they did before the penalties were introduced, while many female-focused groups have been forced to become gender neutral to receive official recognition. As well-intentioned as the University may be, it has not productively enforced and clarified its policies.
So what can we expect from this proposed audit, even if it’s similarly well-intentioned? We fear that a similar mess of inscrutable and fuzzy regulations would result if the administration insists upon inserting itself into this issue. It may be that proposed regulations could be unequally enforced, forcing less institutionally powerful groups to reform, while allowing other organizations to carry on untouched.
Moreover, discussions about the role of comps in Harvard’s clubs must consider that their rigor and strenuousness, in many cases, are what make our organizations so strong. Comps tend to ask for students’ dedication, effort, and commitment, and the process allows students the opportunity to learn and grow, so that they might contribute greatly to the quality of the work that organizations produce.
It is true that the sheer number of clubs on this campus means that there is a variety of ways in which they choose their members and how their comp processes are conducted, and not all of these might be in line with this principle of personal growth. It follows that any examination of comps, whether through an audit or some other means, must take into consideration these nuances and various approaches.
If the audit does come to pass, we hope it sparks greater conversations over social exclusivity and perpetuation of inequalities with regard to status, wealth, and prior skills. There are many comps on campus that prove inaccessible for some students, as they ask for prior experience or skills. These are certainly issues that must be addressed and reformed, but we differ with the Committee and the UC’s assertions that an audit is the best way to resolve them. With regard to the UC, we stand by our previous position that while studying comps are well-intentioned, we doubt the UC would be able to properly investigate student groups and enforce any regulations, given the extensive projects its members commit to on a regular basis. They should continue focusing on the work they have already committed to.
Furthermore, discussions about comps gloss over the fact that final clubs remain the most damaging and largely unscathed influence on the College’s social life. The administration must redouble its efforts to curtail the final clubs’ social influence, rather than spending its time attacking the rich and diverse culture of officially recognized student extracurricular organizations, which do not pose nearly as much of a threat, if at all, to student life.
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.