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Will Harvard Ban Social Clubs On Campus?


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Incoming students to Harvard College may be restricted from taking part in clubs on campus or face disciplinary action.

A report by the university’s faculty committee on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations proposes completely phasing out social clubs by the year 2022, first starting with single-gender groups like sororities and fraternities.

The goal is to prevent discrimination among students in favor of a more inclusive campus.

“The discriminatory practices of these organizations undermine our educational mission and the principles espoused by this Faculty and distance their members from their college experience,” the committee said.

The broad impact that small, exclusive groups can have on students interferes with the school’s mission of providing a “healthy social environment,” the report added.

Other schools like Williams College and Bowdoin College in Massachusetts have eliminated social clubs on campus. Harvard’s recommendation followed their policies closely, including similar simple wording in the proposal and a student pledge.

Steven Pinker, well-known psychologist and Harvard professor, said in a statement to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that he disagreed with the planned policy because it was “at odds with the ideals of a university.”

“A university is an institution with circumscribed responsibilities which engages in a contract with its students,” Pinker said. “Its main responsibility is to provide them with an education. It is not an arbiter over their lives, 24/7. What they do on their own time is none of the university’s business.”



In the report, committee members called out male final clubs, which are similar to fraternities, both for excluding others and for their role in sexual assault on campus.

“My roommate recently told me that one of his worst experiences at Harvard was not
being punched by a final club when all of his blockmates, including me, had received
letters under our doors inviting us to punch,” a student at Harvard said to the committee. “Yes, going co-ed might mitigate unhealthy power dynamics at final club parties. But co-ed will never solve – and,in fact, might reinforce – the exclusionary nature of social life at Harvard.”

Responses to the proposal to ban certain social clubs are mixed amongst Harvard’s graduates. One alumnus responded to an article written by the Harvard Crimson that the ban may be an infringement on the rights of students.

“Harvard is a private institution, but students are also private individuals with civil rights,” the user said. “The question is whether an institution has a right to set arbitrary criteria for behavior.”

The committee is set to release their public report and recommendation early in the fall 2017 semester in September.

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