Harvard University adopted controversial punishments for students in single-gender organizations last year, but a committee has now recommended an even more stringent policy: banning exclusive student clubs altogether.
The committee, composed of two dozen faculty, administrators, and students, released a report saying that they had sought "more effective means" to reach the goal of enforcing equality in private clubs. They proposed that the college take disciplinary action against anyone who joins an exclusive club of any kind.
"Harvard students may neither join nor participate in final clubs, fraternities or sororities, or other similar private, exclusionary social organizations that are exclusively or predominantly made up of Harvard students, whether they have any local or national affiliation, during their time in the College," the committee wrote as a recommended policy.
This flies in the face of student opinion, which has already expressed dissatisfaction with the new policy punishing students for participating in gender-specific clubs. That policy, adopted in 2016, bars anyone in those clubs from holding sports captaincies or receiving the dean's endorsement for certain fellowships.
Those who advocate cracking down point to drinking that goes on at these clubs as well as a survey that found an increased likelihood of sexual assault at their parties. The committee is aiming for much more radical change by ending the influence of these "pernicious" clubs and affecting a new era of equality.
"A year has passed since the announcement of renewed action by the university to address the pernicious influence of the organizations, yet it appears many of them wish to wait it out," the committee wrote. "Some have even responded with an increased zest for exclusion and gender discrimination."
The report did not elaborate on this alleged "increased zest" for discrimination. Many on the right have criticized Harvard's intent to restrict student's voluntary associations on the grounds of stopping discrimination.
"That this constitutes an open attack on the freedom of association is obvious," Noah Daponte-Smith wrote at National Review. Granting that stopping discrimination is one of Harvard values, Daponte-Smith argues that the freedom of association, and therefore freedom of speech, is a more fundamental value.
The committee claims to be seeking feedback before making final recommendations to the administration. President Drew Gilpin Faust will ultimately decide whether to implement their ideas.
Faust will also face opposition to the committee's goals from students. Many have already spoken out against the committee's report.
"[DeanRakesh Khurana] moved the principle under which he can subject membership in organizations to administrative censure from gender exclusivity to exclusivity at all," Aaron Slipper told the New York Times. Slipper is a member of Hasty Pudding Theatricals, which is associated with the Hasty Pudding Club to which Presidents John Adams, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy belonged.
"It’s particularly rich coming from one of the most exclusive universities that exists," he added.