A yet-to-be released report by Harvard University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention finds that sexual assault and “deeply misogynistic attitudes” run rampant within the school’s final clubs (which, for the uninitiated, are off-campus, members-only, predominantly—if not exclusively—male social societies that have existed at Harvard since the mid 1800s).

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According to the task force, 47 percent of female college seniors who’ve participated in the clubs (as party guests, staff, etc.) have reported “experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college.” For comparison, 31 percent of all female college seniors (including those who do not participate in clubs) say they’ve experienced nonconsensual sexual contact.

C. Ramsey Fahs at the Harvard Crimson writes:

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The final report, in no uncertain terms, castigates the male final clubs, which have for more than three decades effectively enjoyed independence from College oversight. The report describes final clubs as emblematic of “sexual entitlement,” troubling areas of potential alcohol abuse and sexual assault, and “vestige[s] of gender inequity” on campus.

Though the report says Harvard’s sexual assault problem is not “solely or even principally a byproduct of the activities and influence of Final Clubs,” it states that combatting sexual assault at Harvard “must include” proposals to address the clubs.

While some of the final clubs have gone coed in recent years due to pressure from Harvard, all of them reportedly continue to struggle with gender dynamics.

“In our view, the very structure of the Clubs—men in positions of power engaging with women on unequal and too often on very sexual terms—speaks tellingly to the work ahead of us if we are to create an environment where all students, of all genders, can thrive,” claims the report. “...The qualitative and quantitative information before us is deeply troubling and requires a strong response from Harvard.”

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The report continues:

“[The] problem goes beyond the number of sexual assaults that are completed or that originate in a Club’s physical spaces, as significant as that is. Our outreach interviews indicate that Final Clubs have a disproportionate influence on campus culture.”

In a Tuesday email to campus affiliates, University President Drew G. Faust wrote, “The clear and powerful call for the University to address issues presented by final clubs relates not only to sexual assault but also to the implications of gender discrimination, gender assumptions, privilege, and exclusivity on our campus.”

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As for a solution, a task force subcommittee recommends the the University either doesn’t “allow simultaneous membership in Final Clubs and College enrollment; or allow Clubs to transition to all-gender inclusion with equal gender membership and leadership.”


Contact the author at madeleine@jezebel.com.

Image via The Social Network/Columbia Pictures.