Harvard sex assault committee takes aim at all-male Final Clubs
By Evan Lips | March 16, 2016, 12:52 EST
CAMBRIDGE — A recently released report by a Harvard University sexual assault task force takes aim at the school’s elite all-male Final Clubs, the fraternity-like social organizations that operate off-campus, blaming them for a climate of sexual assault on campus.
In pointing the finger at the Final Clubs, the report relies heavily on the findings of last fall’s anonymous student sexual assault survey, according to which one in five Harvard women reported being sexually assaulted in some way during their time at the school.
“The survey results demonstrate that female Harvard College students participating in Final Club activities are more likely to be sexually assaulted than participants in any other of the student organizations we polled,” the committee stated.
The report condemns “a strong sense of sexual entitlement within some of the male Final Clubs, stemming in part from the members’ control of social spaces that are imbued with a certain historical tradition and that elevate members’ social status on campus.”
Currently there are six all-male and five all-female Final Clubs, along with two that are co-ed. The report takes specific aim at the male-only clubs and does not scrutinize the co-ed and female-only clubs.
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Harvard University President Drew Gilpin-Faust ordered the creation of the task force in 2014 after the federal government announced it would conduct an investigation to determine whether the school was in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by educational institutions that receive federal funding.
In a campus-wide email released last week, Gilpin-Faust supported the task force’s recommendations.
— The Harvard Crimson (@thecrimson) March 9, 2016
Buried in the report’s appendix is a recommendation of expulsion for students who elect to participate in all-male Final Clubs:
“Either don’t allow simultaneous membership in Final Clubs and College enrollment; or allow Clubs to transition to all-gender inclusion with equal gender membership and leadership,” the recommendation stated.
Although the report takes aim at the Final Clubs as breeding grounds for sexual assault, the authors concede that “the vast majority of sexual assaults in the College occur in the Houses and freshman dormitories,” and demands that residential staff at the college be appropriately trained on issues of sexual assault to “enable them to initiate appropriate conversations and to encourage students in Houses and dorms to look out for one another.”
The task force also recommends subjecting students to annual sexual assault training that “encompasses values, alcohol use, and healthy sexuality as well as policies.”
Uncontroversially, the report suggests that the university exert more control over social events, including moving the annual freshman formal party back onto campus and “prohibit[ing] third-party vendors from selling hard alcohol at large events such as the Harvard-Yale game” and recommends reducing the number of dormitory points of entry.
“Where possible, decrease entry points in dorms and Houses so that students entering and leaving the buildings would need to pass a security officer who would be trained to detect students in need of help and resource availability, including safe transport,” the report stated.
But the task force singles out the exclusive centuries-old Final Clubs as the biggest culprit when it comes to acts of perceived misogyny.
“As we have noted, cultures that reflect male control and exclusivity encourage the marginalization of women and assumptions about sexual entitlement,” the report stated. “Inclusive membership would necessarily shift that culture at the same time that it would affirm fundamental principles of equity.”