Hazing News

The Crimson:Harvard announces 2021 penalties for those going Greek

The Harvard Crimson excerpt
May 7, 2016


Starting with Harvard’s Class of 2021, undergraduate members of
unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding
athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized
student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for
top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

Ending months of speculation, University President Drew G. Faust announced
the sweeping changes in an email to undergraduates Friday morning.
Accepting Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s recommendations—his first
public proposals to regulate unrecognized single gender organizations—Faust
framed the new policy as a matter of necessity.

“Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally
recognized by the College, they play an unmistakable and growing role in
student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at
odds with our deepest values,” Faust wrote. “The College cannot ignore
these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to broadening
opportunity and making Harvard a campus for all of its students.”

Formed in response to the recommendations of a University-wide report
sexual assault prevention, the policy mirrors an idea that Khurana floated
a behind-closed-doors meeting with final club leadership in April.

While administrators have criticized single-gender social clubs,
particularly male final clubs, for statistics purportedly linking them
<> with
an elevated risk of sexual assault, Faust and Khurana’s messages focused
primarily on the membership selection practices of unrecognized single
gender groups.

“[T]he discriminatory membership policies of these organizations have led
to the perpetuation of spaces that are rife with power imbalances,” Khurana
wrote. “The most entrenched of these spaces send an unambiguous message
that they are the exclusive preserves of men. In their recruitment
practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of
power, these organizations propagate exclusionary values that undermine
those of the larger Harvard College community.”

Khurana framed his decision as a logical evolution in Harvard’s “long and
complex history of grappling with gender discrimination,” referencing
Harvard’s integration with Radcliffe College and writing that “[i]n every
era, change has come slowly and often with fierce opposition.”

“[The] unrecognized single-gender social organizations have lagged behind
in ways that are untenable in the 21st century,” Khurana added.

Although current undergraduates as well as members of the incoming Class of
2020 will be exempt from the new policy, the change is sure to affect large
swaths of the undergraduate population once it is enacted.

In February 2015, for instance, the Cambridge Panhellenic Council’s
president estimated that 400 women—roughly six percent of the current
undergraduate population—were involved in Harvard’s sororities.
Furthermore, a number of undergraduates are members of Harvard’s
unrecognized fraternities, male final clubs, female final clubs, or other
unrecognized single-gender organizations such as the all-male Oak Club.

A yet-to-be-appointed committee of students, faculty, and administrators
will craft the enforcement strategy for the broad proposal, likely a
difficult task given that many unrecognized social clubs do not publicize
their membership.

Khurana hinted that unrecognized single-gender social organizations that
choose to adopt gender neutral policies and open selection processes could
gain access to “certain Harvard facilities, among other possibilities to be
determined by the advisory group.”

This is not the first time the College has attempted to pressure the clubs
to adopt gender-neutral policies. In his letter, Khurana referenced a 1984
ultimatum to go co-ed from administrators, which clubs responded to by
disaffiliation from the University. Khurana called that decision a choice
“to maintain… discriminatory practices.”

Referencing the recent rise of sororities and female final clubs—the first
of which, the Bee, was founded in 1991—Khurana wrote that these groups were
“an effort to counter the male dominated dynamics of Harvard’s social

“Ultimately, all of these unrecognized single-gender social organizations
are at odds with Harvard College’s educational philosophy and its
commitment to a diverse living and learning experience,” he added.

While Faust emphasized that students could “decide for themselves” whether
to join a single-gender social club, she defended the College’s decision to
bar club members from captaincies, leadership positions, and fellowships.

“Captains of intercollegiate sports teams and leaders of organizations
funded, sponsored, or recognized by Harvard College in a very real sense
represent the College.They benefit from its resources. They operate under
its name,” she wrote. “Especially as it seeks to break down structural
barriers to an effectively inclusive campus, the College is right to ensure
that the areas in which it provides resources and endorsement advance and
reinforce its values of non-discrimination.”

Khurana meanwhile, reiterated his stance that the groups are “antithetical
to our institutional values,” adding that “Harvard has the obligation to
establish the general regulations and standards governing Harvard students,
faculty, and staff that are consistent with our educational philosophy.”

The announcement comes at the end of a particularly tumultuous year for
Harvard’s single-gender social organizations. In the fall, administrators
repeatedly put pressure on all-male clubs to go co-ed, with the previously
all-male Spee
<> and
the Fox
<> clubs
ultimately extending membership to some women.

Meanwhile, the College made efforts to plan College-sanctioned social
events and revamp House life. In October, Faust allocated a “lump sum”
<> to
the College from her discretionary funds for the purpose of creating more
open social events. Khurana used some of the funds to bankroll a party
planned by women’s groups on campus
In his letter Friday, Khurana wrote that he would “continue to invest in
social alternatives and increase its social programming budgets.”

This spring, the Task Force for the Prevention of Sexual Assault’s report
upbraided the clubs for espousing “a culture often inimical to Harvard
College.” The report found that 47 percent of surveyed senior women at the
College who had “participated” in final clubs reported having experienced
nonconsensual sexual contact during their undergraduate years, “ half
again” the average of 31 percent for all senior women. One of the report’s
six “key recommendations” advocated “address[ing] the distinctive problems
presented by the Final Clubs and other unrecognized single-sex social
organizations.” In her announcement today, Faust wrote that she was
“mindful in particular about concerns that unsupervised social spaces can
present for sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse.”

After the Task Force report’s release, Khurana held multiple meetings with
undergraduate and graduate leaders of final clubs as well as a meeting with
undergraduate leaders of Greek organizations. At those meetings, attendants
reported that Khurana remained coy, with many coming away frustrated by
what they deemed a lack of specificity from the Dean of the College.

Additionally, many final clubs worried that the College could consider
barring undergraduate enrollment in the groups, an option Khurana refused
to rule out last semester
<> and
has kept as a possibility for the future.

Leaders from three clubs—the all-male Porcellian Club
the all-male Fly Club
and the all-female Sablière Society
criticized the administration for their dealings with the clubs, though
Sablière leaders expressed support for the College’s aim of “moving towards
gender inclusivity.”

Despite one meeting with undergraduate leaders of fraternities and
sororities, those organizations have largely been left out of conversations
with administrators. At their meeting, Greek organizations were not issued
a deadline to tell Khurana whether they were planning on going co-ed, something
he did ask of final club leaders.

While members of single-gender social clubs will not be affected by the
policies until the Class of 2021 arrives on campus in 2017, the move could
potentially prompt some clubs to go co-ed. The policy could also spell an
end to years of steady growth
the number of students rushing Greek organizations.

Khurana’s letter and Faust’s email left the door open for further sanctions
against the clubs down the road, including a much-feared option similar to
that pursued in 2014 at Amherst College, which would bar simultaneous
membership in both the College and single-gender social organizations.

Khurana suggested that the new policy should be formally reviewed three
years after its enactment “to assess whether additional steps should be
considered and implemented.”

Accepting this recommendation in her letter, Faust asked Khurana to provide
a report at the end of each of the next three academic years providing “the
College’s assessment of the role the single-gender social organizations are
playing in College life and whether the College should be considering any
further action to advance our core institutional values.”

*Copyright © 2016 The Harvard Crimson, Inc.*

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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