Tag Archives: fraternities

The End of Harvard’s Final Clubs?

By Blair Ericson

In the name of “gender inclusion,” Harvard has decided to punish members of all-female sororities, all-male fraternities, and single-sex final clubs of either sex. The final clubs, targeted by the administration for years, are independent groups beyond the direct reach of the university, so Harvard will blacklist their individual members by not allowing them to lead athletic teams or campus groups and making them ineligible for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

In addition to attacking these—and only these—single-sex groups as discriminatory, Harvard argues that they make sexual assault more likely, citing last spring’s contested “campus climate” survey purporting to show that single-sex clubs are the second most common places for sexual assault. The most common places are all-gender locations: Harvard dorms. Besides, as Harvard student Emily Hall pointed out at National Review, the Boston Globe has raised serious doubts about the validity of that survey. She also points out that Harvard is highly selective in picking single-sex targets—the Black Men’s Forum sand a women-only financial advice group are not just allowed to exist but funded by Harvard.

This selective punishment is not just a failure to provide a benefit. It is punishment. And it is not merely punishment of the students who join a targeted group, but it also is punishment of those innocent organizations and teams who will be denied the opportunity to choose their own leaders.

That is, Harvard’s full-throated attack on students’ right to associate off campus is also an unprecedented attack against the freedom of association of every student organization on campus. It is a major power grab by the university against the autonomy of student organizations of every kind.

Harvard is not a true marketplace of ideas so long as it declares that all student organizations ultimately belong to Harvard and must unwaveringly express Harvard’s declared morality that single-sex socializing is anathema. In 2008, when it banned a party at Adams House because it had been advertised as “Barely Legal,” Harvard argued that “a grant of access for an organization’s event necessarily carries an endorsement of the event by the House.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), , which defends the freedoms of speech and association on campus, responded:

“Does anyone really believe that Harvard fully endorses all of the diverse speech accommodated in its classrooms, halls, and residences, simply by providing the space in which this wide range of expression occurs? Of course not. Such an endorsement is not only impossible, but it is also incompatible with the university’s mission as a true marketplace of ideas.”

In addition, FIRE’s Adam Steinbaugh notes Harvard’s rank hypocrisy on this topic by listing several times that Harvard has gone out of its way to distance itself from the events and values promoted by student organizations in recent years. Did the nude photos of Harvard undergraduates in the H-Bomb represent Harvard? How about the “kinky sex” organization, College Munch? How about the group that planned a Satanic “Black Mass”?

Yet, this month, Harvard has made the untenable argument that by operating under the “name” of Harvard, a student group “represents” the official Harvard morality as articulated by Harvard’s administrators. No reasonable person believes that all of the diverse organizations at Harvard “represent” a monolithic Harvard morality.

Harvard’s double standards run deep. Diversity is the name of Harvard’s game, but only the approved kinds of diversity count. Single-sex organizations are OK if the purpose is to sing or play basketball or provide financial advice to women or to support black men, because these organizations are not deemed social enough in the way that Harvard proscribes. No matter that Harvard is treating all of these organizations and its sports teams with disrespect by arguing that their mission is to play sports or do something else but not, really, to be friends. If their friendships get too close, they risk violating Harvard’s culture against single-sex socializing.

Meanwhile, single-sex organizations are not OK by default if they are primarily social. That is, members of fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are automatically blacklisted so long as they do not admit members beyond a single sex. No matter that in many of their social functions, visitors of the opposite sex are quite welcome.

In fact, this is why Harvard claims to be acting in the first place. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust blames “unsupervised social spaces,” spaces Harvard cannot control, for being places where uncontrolled things happen.

And how will Harvard determine whether private off-campus organizations are social enough and that they are single-sex in their membership, and that a student is officially a member? Will there be investigations and interrogations?

When Trinity College tried this kind of thing, it failed miserably. Trinity recently backed off its own power grab because of major alumni revolt and because, after all, the fraternities were not voluntarily going coed as planned. Trinity’s president wrote:

“I have concluded that the coed mandate is unlikely to achieve its intended goal of gender equity. Furthermore, I do not believe that requiring coed membership is the best way to address gender discrimination or to promote inclusiveness. In fact, community-wide dialogue concerning this issue has been divisive and counterproductive.”

“Outrageously, Harvard has decided that 2016 is the right time to revive the blacklist,” said Robert Shibley, executive director of FIRE. “This year’s undesirables are members of off-campus clubs that don’t match Harvard’s political preferences. In the 1950s, perhaps Communists would have been excluded. I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, ‘Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?’ Sadly, they are not.”

“Harvard’s decision simply demonstrates that it is willing to sacrifice students’ basic freedom of association to the whims of whoever occupies the administrative suites today,” said FIRE co-founder, civil liberties attorney, and Harvard Law alumnus Harvey Silverglate. “Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?”

Finally, it is interesting—perhaps a legal liability—that Harvard waited to announce its policy until after the May 1 deadline for students to accept its college admission offers. Harvard’s administrators know how unpopular this new Puritanism will look to new students as well as to existing students, student organizations, alumni, and anyone who thinks Harvard should offer fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and association, the same rights enjoyed by students at public colleges and even community colleges nationwide.

Harvard has much more powerful and wise alumni than Trinity. If they want to sue, they might even find students and recognized student organizations with standing to sue on contract claims, whether or not the private associations do. Harvard may not promise fundamental freedoms and entice students to send in their deposits when it knows that these promises mean nothing.

Harvard is in the middle of a Board of Oversees election, in which alumni may vote for establishment candidates or an upstart group of petition candidates who seek a “free” and “fair” Harvard in which “privilege” of all kinds is diminished. Three Free Harvard/Fair Harvard candidates — Ron Unz, Lee Cheng, and Stuart Taylor, Jr. — have come out against Harvard’s punishment of single-sex group members. Their press release said, “Reducing unwarranted privilege is one thing, but violating fundamental promises of freedom of association is another. The impairment of students’ rights of free association is not even remotely the most appropriate or effective remedy for what President Faust has called the ‘alarming frequency’ of sexual assaults by Harvard students. Accountability should begin right at the top.  The leaders of Harvard should be held fully accountable for failing to increase police presence on campus or take the other serious steps to protect students that would be called for if President Faust took seriously her own suggestion that sexual assaults are epidemic at Harvard.”

Blair Ericson is a pseudonym of a writer with Harvard connections.

Wesleyan: Total PC All the Time

It’s now a trifecta of political correctness at the expense of sanity—and also justice—at Wesleyan University.

The very latest was the “Halloween Checklist,” a poster that invited students at the elite liberal-arts college in Middletown, Conn., to ask themselves: “Is your costume offensive?” The answer was “yes” if the costume tended to “mock religious or cultural symbols such as dreadlocks, headdresses, afros, bindis, etc.,” or it attempted to “represent an entire culture or ethnicity,” or to “trivialize human suffering, oppression, and marginalization such as portraying a person who is homeless, imprisoned, a person with disabilities, or a person with mental illness.” Students wondering if it was OK for Halloween to wear an orange jumpsuit (not nice to prisoners) or Tyrolean lederhosen (a slur on Austrians) were advised to call one of six different campus counselors, ranging from the diversity office to Residence Life for advice on how not to tread on sensitive toes.

The checklist followed on the heels of a unanimous Oct. 18 vote by Wesleyan’s student government to cut funding for the Argus, the college’s primary student newspaper. In September the Argus had published a column by a conservative staffer criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement, not for its opposition to perceived police brutality to blacks, but for some of its members’ rhetoric that seemed to encourage anti-cop violence. The $17,000 budget cut to the paper, which already publishes only twice a week to begin with, followed demands by Black Lives Matter and other progressive student groups for mandatory re-education classes for Argus staffers and threats by those groups to “recycle”—that is, destroy–copies of the paper if the Argus failed to comply with their demands.

Shortly before that, Wesleyan succeeded in getting rid of all three of its fraternity houses, decertifying them as approved campus housing for undergraduates. One of the Greek houses, Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), had resisted (and is currently suing over) the administration’s September 2014 mandate requiring the houses to admit women members, which DKE maintains would violate its national charter and also its historic all-male identity. Wesleyan suspended the other two frats, Beta Theta Pi and Psi Upsilon, after an apparently intoxicated female fell out of an upper-story window at the Beta house in 2014 and allegations of drug-dealing surfaced at the Psi U house this past summer.

So—no more fraternities, a crippled student newspaper, and draconian guidelines intended to curb the slightest manifestation of irreverent humor at Halloween. Wesleyan has checked all the boxes for political correctness, and may be checking out as a major university.

WESLEYAN BATTLES DRUGS AND FRATS

Wesleyan University made national news this past February when 12 students were hospitalized for drug overdoses and five were arrested on drug-related charges, amid fears that the drug culture was far advanced at the school.

The university chose last month–a nice, quiet time, with no students on campus–to ramp up its long-term war on fraternities in a quiet way. It announced a revision of the student handbook to prohibit students “from using any…property that the University informs students are off-limits for health, safety or conduct reasons at the University’s discretion.  These prohibitions include using such houses or property as residences, taking meals at such houses or property, and participating in social activities or otherwise being present at such houses or property.”

Translated into English, this was an attempt to deprive one former fraternity and two existing fraternities – one male and the other co-ed – of any ability to generate income, so the university would be able to acquire their historic structures at distress-sale prices.  As Wesleyan President Michael Roth wrote to Board Chairman Joshua Boger on August 20, 2014– in what he expected to be a confidential email– “If we don’t close the houses with the hopes of acquiring them, then we shouldn’t go down this road at all.”

Now it seems that decades of PC zealotry and drug culture are hitting Wesleyan where it hurts – in its fund-raising pocketbook.  In a July 30 email to “Wesleyan Fund Volunteers,” the university’s Director of Annual Giving, Charles Fedolfi, said he shares the worries of the Fund’s co-chairs. “We face a challenge in convincing our classmates to contribute EVERY year…. Our year-over-year giving has fallen to the low 40% to high 30% range…[and] we had approximately 400 [sic] fewer donors than the prior year (9,712 v. 10,209) due primarily to the number of alumni who did not renew their gifts.”

The obvious question is why 497 donors, nearly 5% of the alumni donor base, decided not to give. Maybe they think their alma mater is off course, and are voting with their wallets.