Friday, May 10, 2019

Harvard succeeds in crushing the women's clubs

I long ago told the Faculty that the social club sanctions would hurt women more than men. At the year's final meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on May 7, I asked Dean Khurana the following question about that:
Dean Khurana, my question concerns the policy you announced 3 years ago in order to push certain off-campus social clubs to go co-ed, a policy that this Faculty discussed at some length. You were quoted in the Crimson on February 22 to the effect that you were pleased with the success of the policy. The Crimson also reported, however, that while the policy has wiped out almost all the women’s clubs, it has had only a small impact on the men’s clubs. So that the faculty may know the facts of the matter without relying on the Crimson, can you tell us as of today, how many of the men’s clubs have gone co-ed (perhaps under a new name), how many went out of business, and how many remain all-male; and similarly for the women’s clubs, how many went co-ed, how many went out of business, and how many remain all-female? 

Harvard Magazine explains the question and reports Dean Khurana's reply.
The point of his question was that the policy has made it difficult for women to maintain their recently established social organizations, while the long-established male final clubs (including those with private facilities in Harvard Square, and in some cases significant endowment resources built up over many decades), have been relatively less affected to date—an outcome perhaps different from the one Khurana sought, or that faculty members who voted for the policy in late 2017 intended. Khurana pointed to data available from the dean of students office. Among 13 social organizations now qualifying as gender-neutral (and therefore recognized, so that membership does not expose a student to the sanctions), he said, four were former fraternities; eight were former sororities; and one was a final club. Seven final clubs or similar male fraternal organizations had not become gender-neutral, and therefore remain unrecognized social organizations, whose members are subject to the new policy’s sanctions.
A knowledgeable undergraduate helped me parse the accuracy of this answer.
  • The statement that "eight were former sororities" can't be right, since there have never been more than four sororities at Harvard.
  • The statement that "one was a final club" seems to refer to the Spee. But some women's final clubs went co-ed, so it seems that when Khurana refers to "final clubs" he is referring only to the male final clubs. Perhaps he is equating the formerly women's final clubs with sororities, even though they do not have national parent organizations. But the numbers still don't seem to add up.
  • And it is hard to reconcile the statement that "Seven final clubs or similar male fraternal organizations ha[ve] not become gender-neutral" with the facts that six male final clubs remain all-male (AD, PC, Fly, PSK, Owl, and Fox, none of which is applying for recognition) and two fraternities (SX and SAE) remain all male and have sued Harvard. (The Fox at one point promised to go co-ed and then reversed course. The Delphic, a men's final club, and the Bee, a women's final club, seem to have effectively merged to form a recognized co-ed club.)

Bottom line: there seem to be eight all-male clubs left and zero all-female clubs, while there used to be thirteen all-male clubs and ten all-female clubs. And at gender-neutral Harvard, this counts as success.

Added May 11: One of the sororities that shut down seems to have technically re-opened, with almost no members, mainly to join the fraternities in their lawsuit against the University. Last spring a new female final club was reported to have been formed, but I can't find any recent information about its status.


  1. Today marks a notable day with the Fox's decision not to go co-ed. This group was the most likely group to go co-ed and comply with the sanctions of any of the remaining all male groups. There is essentially zero chance that any of the remaining groups go co-ed, as that decision rests within the power of the grad board, which undergrad members of these institutions have no power to change. Having friends in several of these clubs, I can say with a high degree of certainty, that even if going co-ed was an option (which is still incredibly unlikely), the criteria Harvard has set of governance and local-autonomy will never be approved by the remaining clubs. Since the goal of these sanctions is to make male organizations go co-ed and register with the school, this marks the abject failure of the policy. Now the sanctions are just denying leadership opportunities and infringing on student's freedom with no achievable goal in sight.

    The Spee already went co-ed before the sanctions were announced, so they do not count as a success for the sanctions. The only remarkable success of these sanctions has been to eliminate almost all women spaces on campus. It is almost comical how the sanctions have failed so remarkably to achieve their goal of getting male clubs to go co-ed, while simultaneously destroying and altering so many empowering organizations for women.

    If Harvard's goal was to make these clubs go co-ed, they have made this impossible with their other requirements on local governance and information sharing with the college. None of these 100+ year old organizations are willing to cripple their dependance from Harvard in order to comply with Harvard (especially since the sanctions are still being litigated and are uncertain).

  2. I'm curious: couldn't one of the womens' clubs and one of the mens' clubs have merged in name only to form a "coed" club that only held single-sex events?