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Fox Considers Going Co-Ed After Undergrads Vote For Gender-Neutral Membership Twice

The Fox Door
The Fox Club door on JFK Street.

After its undergraduate membership voted twice to go co-ed this spring, the Fox Club Graduate Association will meet May 14 to approve or reject the proposal, according to documents obtained by The Crimson.

“RESOLVED that the Fox Club Graduate Association grant its approval for the undergraduate members of the Fox Club to adopt a gender-neutral membership policy,” the ballot for graduate members to vote on the measure reads.

Fox Graduate Board President Hugh M. Nesbit ’77 confirmed in emails to the club’s graduate affiliates that undergraduate members voted in favor of going co-ed on two separate occasions between Feb. 13 and March 22. At least two-thirds of undergraduate members had to vote affirmatively each time for the proposal to pass.

Following the undergraduates’ second vote, the graduate board held a two-hour “informal gathering” April 6 in its clubhouse where members discussed — but did not vote on — the motion to go co-ed, according to an internal email.

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Two-thirds of dues-paying graduate members must vote in favor of the motion before the Fox can officially change its membership policies, according to an April 4 letter Nesbit sent to graduates members. Voters have until May 14 to cast their ballots.

The Fox’s graduate board has adopted a neutral stance on the issue, according to Nesbit’s letter.

“The Board does not take a position on the question of membership, believing it is up to each of you to determine what type of club you choose to belong to and support,” the letter reads.

Nesbit wrote in his letter that even if the Fox’s graduate members vote to go co-ed, the College’s penalties on single-gender social groups will likely still apply to the club. The sanctions — which took effect with the Class of 2021 — prohibit members of single-sex Greek organizations and final clubs from leading student organizations, serving as athletic team captains, and receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships.

“The outcome of this vote either way will have no bearing on the Club’s continued status as independent of Harvard University,” Nesbit wrote. “Based on the Board’s understanding of Harvard policies, the Club will remain ineligible to become a ‘recognized’ social organization at Harvard regardless of the outcome of this vote.”

Recognized Social Organizations are social groups that are exempt from the sanctions because of their cooperation with Harvard and commitment to gender-neutral membership policies. All but one all-female social organization have chosen to pursue RSO status with the College, though several male-only fraternities and final clubs — including the Porcellian, the A.D., the Fly, the Owl, and the PSK — continue to defy Harvard’s controversial rules.

The Fox has a history of flitting between single-gender and co-ed membership policies. In 2015, the Fox voted to accept nine junior and senior women — only to permanently revoke their membership a year and a half later.

Debates over going co-ed reignited in spring 2018, according to a Feb. 13 email Nesbitt sent to Fox members.

“Discussions with the Graduate Board began last spring and continued over the summer, but were overtaken by the University's actions relating to the sanctions policy and the fall punch,” the email reads.

On Sept. 7, the Fox promised the College it would go co-ed. But come Sept. 18, administrators announced that the club was no longer seeking recognition as a co-ed RSO.

Then this spring, the Fox held a vote among its undergraduates to adopt a gender-neutral membership policy.

Before the vote, the graduate board met with undergraduates at least once to discuss the proposed change, the Feb. 13 email states. During one meeting, graduate and undergraduate members discussed whether going co-ed would affect financial support from graduate affiliates or prompt a change in guest policies.

The Fox determines its dues — which are required of voting graduate members — using a sliding scale based on class year, according to internal emails. Those who recently graduated from the College must pay $44, for example, while those who graduated 11 to 50 years ago need to shell out $125 or more.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Fox plans to host gatherings in various cities to provide an opportunity for its graduate affiliates to discuss the upcoming referendum, internal emails state. The club organized an evening meeting in Cambridge and a brunch in Washington, D.C., in addition to at least three conference calls with small groups of members.

Nesbit could not immediately be reached for comment early Friday morning.

The upcoming vote comes amidst parallel state and federal lawsuits contending that Harvard’s sanctions policy constitutes gender-based discrimination and infringes on students’ freedom of association.

—Staff writer Sanjana L. Narayanan can be reached at sanjana.narayanan@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at samuel.zwickel@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @samuel_zwickel.

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