A private school that admits five percent of its applicants seeks to ban private clubs because of their exclusivity.
You can tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him he’s a hypocrite.
The Committee on the Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations, a clique that excluded most Harvard faculty members, recommends that the institution forbid students from joining any private quasi-campus organization not recognized by the Cambridge, Massachusetts school. Harvard President Drew Faust makes the final decision. But, given the standard-operating procedure of colleges determining the desired results of committees by rigging their composition, it’s difficult to see her rejecting the recommendations.
The edict impacts not only the Fox Club, which recently made headlines by reverting to a dudes-only policy, but the mixed Hasty Pudding Club and the four for-females finals clubs as well.
Currently, the school blackballs members of the unrecognized single-gender groups from holding leadership positions in student government, the captaincies of sports teams, and institutional endorsements for Rhodes scholarships. The recommended policy seeks to compel students to sign agreements not to join unrecognized groups.
Dean Wormer lives.
The committee’s report released earlier this month reflects a clear discomfort for the Ivy League ethos of elitism and exclusivity. “The Committee considered the importance of allowing our students to select their own social spaces and friends,” the report reads, “but we also recognize principles such as inclusiveness and equality, which many members of the Harvard community consider of paramount importance to our mission.”
But if inclusiveness and equality served as the primary values of Harvard, so central that they override freedom of assembly, why charge $65,000 a year to attend? If the committee wants to end exclusion, why does Harvard host separate ceremonies for black and Latino graduates? If the committee wished to abolish elitism, why not recommend shuttering Harvard?
The committee acknowledges that the school recognizes exclusive organizations. “In some instances, the [independent student organizations] are defined by race and gender,” the report concedes, “however they may not discriminate on the basis of either race or gender.” This is dishonest. The names of the groups announce, like all clubs do, their limited purpose that necessarily leaves out some people and draws in others.
Approved student organizations, such as the College Republicans, Asian American Women’s Association, and Science Club for Girls, all advertise the restrictive nature of their projects. Even Gender Inclusivity in Math, which utilizes an Orwellian buzzword popular with the committee in its title, pursues exclusivity by running a women’s speaker series, holding a conference for undergraduate women, and describing itself as an “organization dedicated to creating a community of mathematicians particularly welcoming to women interested in math and reducing the gender gap in Harvard’s math department.”
That’s okay. All clubs tend to attract a select group of people by implicitly or explicitly prohibiting other groups of people who do not share the interests or traits of the members. They also reserve the right to make their own rules, and that’s the rub. Control freaks control Harvard. They can’t stomach others controlling anything. Rather than protesting a club by not joining, they seek to prohibit anyone from joining. And they do this selectively. Killjoys.
The school sets a bad example in its misguided drive for inclusion as it did in its earlier misguided drive for exclusion.
Harvard first granted tenure to a woman 70 years ago, first admitted co-eds 40 years ago, and first appointed a female president 10 years ago. In other words, for 97 percent of the institution’s history the Harvard presidency remained an all-male office, for 92 percent of its history Harvard refused to admit women, and for 82 percent of its history it balked at granting tenure to female faculty members.
Founded by the same people who drove Anne Hutchinson out of Massachusetts and ultimately to her death at the hands of natives, Harvard exhibits the small-minded puritanism today that many of its early leading lights embraced. But if mandated conformity remains one tradition, rebellion strikes as another.
“The class of 1823 was uncommonly rowdy,” Samuel Eliot Morison informs in Three Centuries of Harvard. “A class history kept by a member chronicles class meetings and forbidden dinners, battles in commons, cannon-balls dropped from upper windows, choruses of ‘scrapping’ that drowned out tutors’ voices in classroom and chapel, and plots that resulted in drenching their persons with ink and water.”
The rebellion (the 19th century equivalent of giving an impassioned speech about the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor) resulted in a fate worse than rustication — expulsion, for more than half the class. But it ultimately resulted in desired reforms. The Harvard hooligans offer inspiration to any undergraduate looking to buck edicts from above. They can beat the heavy-handed committee by joining (secretly) any of the light-hearted groups on the school’s Index Congregationis Prohibitorum. Alternatively, they could convert a 1964 Lincoln Continental into a Death Mobile and inflict terror into the hearts of Brattle Street pedestrians.
Mouths-agape Lodges and Lowells, Cabots and Cushings, and Searses and Saltonstalls surely know where the school’s logic leads. When does Harvard University merge with Bunker Hill Community College?
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