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The historical basis for the name "final clubs" is that Harvard used to have a variety of clubs for freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, with students of different years being in different clubs, and the "final clubs" were so named because they were the last social club a person could join before graduation.
There are currently eight all-male clubs at Harvard:
- A.D. (1 Plympton St.)
- Owl (30 Holyoke St.);
- Delphic (9 Linden St.);
- Fly (2 Holyoke Pl.);
- Fox (44 John F. Kennedy St.);
- Phoenix-SK (72 Mt Auburn St.);
- Porcellian – sometimes called the "Porc" or the "P.C." (1324 Massachusetts Ave.);
- Spee (76 Mt Auburn St).
All were established a century or more ago. There are other private male social clubs at Harvard that own property and participate in similar functions as the final clubs.
Five all-female social clubs have been founded recently and are called the Bee, the Isis, the Pleiades, the Sabliere Society, and La Vie. Another women's organization, the Seneca, distinguishes itself as a "501(c)(3) nonprofit women's organization that is often misidentified as a final club." Several other clubs are also 501(c)(3) organizations and engage in some community service. The Bee was founded in 1991; The Seneca in 1999; Isis in 2000; Pleiades in 2002; Sabliere in 2002; and La Vie in 2008.
(The co-ed Signet Society, Alpha Delta Phi Society, Harvard Crimson, Harvard Advocate and Harvard Lampoon also have selective membership, but their charters define them as something other than social organizations, based on their literary or artistic characteristics.)
All of the male clubs own clubhouses that they have occupied for many decades. Clubhouses usually include dining halls, libraries, and game rooms. Most are staffed with chefs, stewards, and other paid personnel. Most serve luncheon and dinner meals at regular schedules. The Delphic Club boasts a regulation-size squash court.
The Bee Club rents space from the Fly Club at 45 Dunster Street in a building that was previously the D.U. (the "Duck") before half the club became the Oak Club and half merged with The Fly. La Vie Club rents a colonial style house on Garden Street. The Isis rents a portion of The Owl's premises. The Sabliere Society recently obtained property in the Square. The Pleiades Society recently obtained an apartment on Waterhouse Street.
None of the final clubs provide housing to undergraduate members, nor are they currently affiliated with national organizations. The Delphic began as Delta Phi, and the Fly began as Alpha Delta Phi.
In 1984, Harvard required that the final clubs either go co-educational or cease any connection with the College, as required by Title IX legislation. The clubs opted to become fully independent, and since then have maintained themselves beyond university regulation. The clubs own property in Cambridge, collectively assessed at over $17 million as of 2006.
Historically, there was more differentiation among the clubs. Years ago Harvard College freshmen could join a freshman club, then a "waiting club," and finally a "final club." Of the final clubs still in existence, only the P.C. and the Fox were initially founded as final clubs. The Phoenix SK is the amalgam of three separate clubs: the Phoenix, the Sphinx, and the Kalumet. The Iroquois Club built the edifice now owned by the Office for the Arts at Harvard, at 74 Mount Auburn Street. Their dance studio is the former Iroquois dining hall. The original Pi Eta Club built the structure now occupied by Upstairs On The Square, and Grendel's Den.
Each fall the clubs hold "punch season" which is similar to the rush period for fraternities. Sophomores and juniors are invited to a series of social events. After each event, more likely prospective members, or "punches", are invited back. After the last event, called a "final dinner", each club elects 10–30 new members who then choose among the clubs they have been asked to join. Being "punched" refers to receiving an invitation to the first punch event. Once the punch process has begun, the verb "to punch" can also refer to a prospective member's attending the clubs' events, e.g. "Is he really punching both the Delphic and A.D.?"
The clubs have an undergraduate membership of around forty apiece, amounting to over 10% of the eligible male undergraduates, and 5% of eligible female undergraduates. The clubs have varying entrance restrictions for guests. Some final clubs often hold parties and open their doors to women guests and male guests of members. Others, like the A.D., have only in recent history opened their doors to female guests of members and still do not allow male guests. Others rarely welcome non-members. The Porcellian does not allow non-members past "the bicycle room" in the building's foyer; the Delphic permits its guests access only to its basement or courtyard through separate entrances; the Fox has a basement room with a separate entrance for guests.
In January 2006 national attention focused on the Harvard final club system as a result of the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito. Alito came under criticism as a result of his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a conservative group that opposed affirmative action and the admission of women into Princeton. One of the leading Democrats highlighting this charge was Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. Conservatives, however, responded by pointing out Kennedy's membership in the Owl Club of Harvard. As a result of the political fallout, Senator Kennedy left the club.
In August of that same year, Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial candidate (and now Governor) Deval Patrick came under fire for his membership in the Fly Club. Critics viewed Patrick's membership in the club as contradictory to his image as a champion of civil rights. Patrick countered that he had left the club in the early 1980s when he realized that it contradicted his values, although the club itself had Patrick's name on its roster as late as 2006.
The Social Network
- Cambridge Historical Commission, "City of Cambridge, Landmarks and Other Protected Properties", 2009.
- "Cambridge Massachusetts City Council Calendar No. 23 Monday, December 4, 2000" (archived 2001). "Consent Agenda #17, relative to a Preservation Easement for 2 Holyoke Place (Fly Club)."
- "SPEE CLUB, INC., Summary Screen", The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, Secretary Of The Commonwealth, Corporations Division
- "LA VIE CLUB INCORPORATED Summary Screen", 2008, The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, Secretary Of The Commonwealth, Corporations Division
- Beam, Alex, "Harvard's Vanishing Squash Courts", Vanity Fair, May 20, 2009
- "Patrick says he quit The Fly Club in 1983 - The Boston Globe". Boston.com. 2006-08-03. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- Harrington, Rebecca M., "How the Final Clubbers Fool You - The Trend is Nigh", The Harvard Crimson, Thursday, March 2, 2006
- Hemel, Daniel J., "E-mails Offer Glimpse of Club: Isis e-mail archives reveal details of 'punch' process, relationship with Bee Club", The Harvard Crimson, Monday, October 24, 2005
- Phillips, Frank, "Patrick says he quit The Fly Club in 1983: Nine exclusive clubs at Harvard limit membership to men. A gubernatorial candidate's link to one renews debate on elitism", The Boston Globe, August 3, 2006
- "Kennedy Ends His Final Club Ties: Senator withdraws from Owl Club after conservatives criticized his membership", The Harvard Crimson, Tuesday, January 17, 2006
- The Oak Club, , Retrieved September 11, 2012
- Sachs, Stephen E., "What's Wrong With Final Clubs: The Public Interest", The Harvard Crimson, Tuesday, October 23, 2001