In a move that will prompt a lot of anguished howling among people for whom college was the most important time of their lives, Harvard has announced it will place new restrictions on members of the school’s “final clubs.” Those are chummy, very old single-sex organizations where money sloshes merrily in every direction.
University President Drew G. Faust announced today that beginning with the Class of 2017, members of single-sex final clubs won’t be allowed to hold leadership positions on campus and won’t be considered for big-deal scholarships and fellowships, like the Rhodes. The strictures apply to both women-only and men-only clubs, and neatly encourages both to go co-ed, since the most ambitious students will no longer apply for clubs that would hamper their campus ambitions.
According to the Harvard Crimson, Faust wrote in a letter to students that the clubs aren’t formally recognized by the school, but “play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values.” A sexual assault task force also said two months ago that the clubs create “serious concerns.” From the report:
“Students report a strong sense of sexual entitlement within male final clubs, stemming in part from the members’ control of social spaces that are imbued with a certain historical tradition and that elevate members’ social status on campus. In our view, the very structure of the clubs — men in positions of power engaging with women in unequal and 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.”
Other schools are also taking action against single-sex organizations, with mixed effects: the DKE fraternity at Wesleyan filed a lawsuit last year over the grim prospect of being forced to admit women.
Aged former Harvard students are already denouncing the move, like the very excised gentleman who graduated in 1969 who spoke to Harvard magazine about it. The Crimson also put together a handy guide to final clubs, in case you need something to read while thanking God and a cross-cultural pantheon of saints that you’re no longer in college.
Students on the Harvard quad. Photo via Getty