Tag: Clubs

Member Post

 

Throughout our lives, at one time or another, we all feel that we are included and engaged with the people in our lives; at other times we feel like we are outsiders looking in. When we reflect on our families, our religions, the clubs we belong to, the politics we hold dear, we might believe […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

Harvard’s Final Clubs Debacle

 

shutterstock_143473063Last week, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust wrote a public letter on “Single-Gender Social Organizations,” which heralds a brave new social order at Harvard and perhaps elsewhere. The targets of her letter are Harvard’s so-called final clubs—those organizations that are the last, or final, clubs that undergraduates would join before leaving Harvard. These final clubs are not located on Harvard property and they receive no funding of any sort from the University, having been officially dissociated from Harvard in 1984. There are at present 13 of them—six accept only male members; five, only female members. Two formerly all-male clubs, Fox and Spee, are now co-ed after buckling under relentless pressure from Harvard. Some 30 percent of Harvard undergraduates are members of these organizations. It seems clear that there is substantial private demand for these clubs, and, for a period of many years, little or no demand for co-ed social clubs that served these same purposes.

These final clubs enjoy widespread acceptance among their members because some young people prefer to organize their social lives around single-sex organizations. To a classical liberal like myself, these revealed preferences count a great deal, for it would be foolish to insist that a large fraction of this nation’s future elites are so misguided about their own moral and social development that they would take steps to stunt their growth in both these dimensions. But in the eyes of progressives like Faust, these preferences should be dismissed as inconsistent with a bigger vision of a “campus free from exclusion on arbitrary grounds.” When an organization rejects “much of the student body merely because of its gender,” she writes, that “undermines the promise offered by Harvard’s diverse student body.” She then concludes on a paternalist note that these clubs “do not serve our students well when they step outside our gates into a society where gender-based discrimination is understood as unwise, unenlightened, and untenable.”

Faust offered no particulars for her indictment. Rather, she eagerly accepted the recommendations contained in a Harvard College letter, also from last week, by the college dean, Rakesh Khurara, which argues in harsh pernicious stereotypes that the final clubs are the “exclusive preserves of men” and create a power imbalance on campus, making it impossible for Harvard to move forward in the 21st century. He twists the knife in deep by insisting that any student who is a member of one of these clubs will be denied positions of leadership “in recognized student organizations or athletic teams,” and will not receive Dean endorsement letters that are needed when applying to prestigious scholarships such as the Rhodes and Marshall awards. Khurara only stops short of insisting that membership in a final club should be grounds for expulsion from Harvard.