Following a call for Harvard's oldest male social club, the Porcellian Club, to admit female members, the club broke its public silence. Since its founding in 1791, the club has never spoken about its recruitment practices, but decided to break that unspoken rule to clarify that admitting women into the club would "increase the chances of sexual misconduct."
Now, to further clarify the matter, are we talking about sexual misconduct on the part of the men already in the club, or the women who want to enter it?
“Forcing single-gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct,” Charles M. Storey, the president of the club’s alumni group, wrote on Tuesday in a letter to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.
This was one of several comments released on the matter. The collective commentary was made public while Harvard was making a campus-wide effort to prevent sexual assault. This refusal to admit women on the grounds of furthering opportunities for sexual assault was met with a lot of criticism and even some satire. One satirical article was even titled "Club of Wealthy White Men Comes Out in Support of Status Quo."
Representative Katherine Clark (D, Mass) took to Twitter to speak out against the club's position: “Or, instead of blaming women, you could focus on teaching members of your club to NOT sexually assault people.”https://twitter.com/RepKClark/status/720311027435343872
Even though Mr. Storey apologised by the end of Tuesday, saying, “I chose my words poorly and it came out all wrong,” the damage was already done.
In 1984, Harvard began requiring its all-male clubs to admit women. At that point, most of the clubs disengaged from the school and conducted their business independently. Even though most of these clubs play a major role in the school's community, six of its clubs will still only admit men, despite Harvard's long-standing requirement.
Harvard's dean, Rakesh Khurana, was quoted saying single-sex clubs are “at odds with the aspirations of the 21st-century society.” He will meet with graduate leaders of these groups, deemed "final clubs," on Wednesday to begin final discussions with club members and alumni to address the issue.
“The college has a responsibility to protect our values and our students’ well-being, even in the face of perceived short-term challenges of changing the status quo.”
In an effort to save face, Mr. Storey has since claimed the Porcellian Club has become a "scapegoat" and that there have been no reported incidents of sexual misconduct.
Several students have expressed their own skepticism about the ordeal.
“I think the fact that women aren’t allowed in their clubhouse has nothing to do with it, and I think that was a pretty dumb thing to say,” Emily Bishai, a Harvard junior, said, adding that she has a number of close friends who are in final clubs. She went on to say that the idea that admitting women would increase sexual assault fell into some "pretty faulty logic."
Still more students are confused about the claims against the Porcellian Club, citing the club's lack of parties and all-around low-key profile.
So the question remains: should Harvard stick with its long-standing tradition, or make the remaining all-male clubs adhere to its own 1984 ruling?