A Harvard University task force on sexual assault prevention is recommending that exclusive, male-only social organisations known as Final Clubs be opened up to women.
Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, expressed her support for the recommendations in a campus-wide email, according to The College Fix.
The clubs have been active since the middle of the 19th century, and are like “fraternities and sororities — only much fancier,” Harvard graduate Mattie Kahn wrote for Elle Magazine in November, two months after one Final Club, the Spee Club, formally invited some women to join.
Final Clubs have also come under fire from other members of the Harvard community.
“The clubs foster de facto sexual violence, racism, and class domination,” wrote two students, Brianna J. Suslovic, and Jordan T. Weiers, in The Harvard Crimson last year. “Only abolition of the clubs will show true commitment to inclusion and respect.”
The report also backs up the students’ sentiment:
A woman’s physical appearance is often seen as the basis for entry to these spaces, and female students described a general expectation that entering Final Club spaces could be read as implicit agreement to have sexual encounters with members.
Offering a different point of view, the Harvard Political Review’s Peter Wright wrote “a defence of single-sex organisations” last year arguing the school shouldn’t try to control an unofficial club.
“If Harvard refuses to recognise the clubs then it has no right to be imposing their will on them,” he wrote.
Indeed, the school’s president, Drew Faust, has been pressuring the clubs to admit women. But she has also criticised the clubs for having an elitist atmosphere, The New York Times reported in the fall.
“To have certain groups that can dispense privilege and advantage in very significant ways that exclude individuals from membership is very troubling,” she told The Times.
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