Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Economist on the sanctions

Harvard's policy against single-sex clubs is not working, writes Emma Duncan. of the Economist (behind a paywall).  It's a good short summary of the way the logic of the sanctions has gotten twisted and missed its target. I'm quoted, speaking sympathetically on behalf of the many women in CS who were members of women's clubs, and also pointing out the strange political alliances this issue has created, on both sides.

One unnamed former Harvard administrator, no fan of the final clubs, notes, “If we’d happily write letters for people who were members of the Communist Party or the NRA, it seems lunacy to say that we’d refuse that to somebody who wanted to join one of these clubs.” The Communist Party example is a reminder that Joseph McCarthy went after a Harvard professor (Wendell Furry) for having been a member of the Party, and President Pusey stuck up for his right to continue teaching without any dishonor at Harvard.

I really do wonder about the status of the Harvard Knights of Columbus and the Harvard Daughters of Isabella. These groups are not only single-sex and composed exclusively of Harvard students---they use the Harvard name, something that none of the blacklisted clubs do. We were repeatedly told that the fact that the USGSOs were off campus and private was a minor technicality, since they were so dependent on Harvard's good name. Well, these organizations are even more closely tied to Harvard---and operate under the control of a national or even international mother organization, another black mark against the fraternities and sororities. I asked about these organizations in a faculty meeting, and got no clear answer. On what basis are their members not subject to sanction? (To be clear, I am only pointing out how twisted the logic has gotten, not calling on Harvard to take on our good neighbors at St. Paul's!)

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