Why Harvard Has Declared War on Greek Life
From 2021, members of Harvard’s single-sex clubs will no longer be qualified for leadership positions at the university or be considered for postgraduate fellowships.
After months of meetings with members of fraternities, sororities, and semi-secret social societies known as “final clubs” at Harvard University, school administrators have announced sanctions on these organizations that may spell an end to their storied existence.
Beginning with the graduating class of 2021, which will enter Harvard in 2017, members of single-sex clubs will no longer be qualified for leadership positions at the university, like athletic team captaincies.
They will also not be considered for postgraduate fellowships, like the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships.
In an email to undergraduates on Friday, Harvard President Drew G. Faust wrote that the sanctions signaled changes towards a more progressive future at the university, and that the new policy reflects the school’s commitment to “broadening opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students.”
Though Harvard’s Greek organizations and final clubs aren’t officially recognized by the school, they have “an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values,” she wrote.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana has been at the forefront of these changes, meeting with members of Harvard’s single-sex clubs in recent months.
Before Khurana was appointed Dean in 2014, the administration has long turned a blind eye to goings on at the school’s final clubs, according to The Crimson. (Dean Khurana did not return a request for comment by The Daily Beast.)
They’ve since come under intense scrutiny, particularly Harvard’s all-male final clubs. In March, the University’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention condemned their “deeply misogynistic attitudes” in a University-wide report urging administrators to force them to admit women.
The report also highlighted statistics allegedly linking male clubs to sexual assault on campus.
Speaking to the Washington Post in April, a graduate member of the Porcellian Club, Harvard’s oldest all-men final club, said the sexual assault allegations were absurd.
“We elect about a dozen sophomores each year and invite them to have dinners with alumni of the club who have stayed involved and cherish this cross-generational community of Harvard students. We don’t host parties. We don’t allow guests on the premises of our club. How could we possibly be connected to the problem of sexual assault on campus?”
Reina Gattuso, a 2015 Harvard graduate and Fulbright Scholar currently studying at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, India, told the Daily Beast that she was “absolutely thrilled” about the sanctions, which she believes have resulted from pressure from the anti-sexual assault movement both at Harvard and on campuses across the country.
As an undergrad at Harvard, Gattuso was a vociferous critic of these social groups on campus.
“For a lot of us the clubs are a symbol of some of the most exclusionary aspect of Harvard’s history,” Gattuso told The Daily Beast. “Harvard is such an elite place, and these institutions are relics of a good ol’ boys vision of the Ivy League. Not only are they an in-your-face reminder of the fact that you wouldn’t have been allowed at Harvard if you were a woman fifty years ago, but they also have a toxic relationship with Harvard social life.”
Charlotte Lieberman, who graduated in 2013, largely agreed with Gattuso. But she said that the sanctions perpetuate and prioritize Harvard’s “culture of getting ahead, of accolades, of holding titles. To be in a final club is to make a great sacrifice—to not be able to engage in other ways of achieving within a hegemonic system.”
While she welcomed the new sanctions, Lieberman is disappointed to see that “the only way Harvard knows to get people to pay attention to things is by threatening to remove the possibility of further ‘success,’ which contributes to a realm of student life suffused with other problematic values like pressure, competition, self-judgment, and hyper-individualism to name just a few.”